Only top six will do, says Hibee Heffernan

Paul Heffernan is delighted be at Easter Road
Paul Heffernan is delighted be at Easter Road
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Hibs new boy Paul Heffernan today admitted there can be no excuses if the Easter Road club don’t finish the season in the top six.

Although Pat Fenlon’s side have got off to an indifferent start, former Kilmarnock striker Heffernan believes that only now, with the transfer window shut and the Irishman having assembled a squad which includes ten new faces, can a true judgment begin to be made.

The 31-year-old, who will be vying with James Collins, Rowan Vine and Ross Caldwell for a place in Fenlon’s frontline, said: “This is a good squad, it should be very competitive in this league and we should be looking for at least a top-six finish.

“There are no excuses. We have got the players here, now we have to go out and prove it on a Saturday. This is the time to start judging us now. The window is shut, the players are in. It’s time for the talking to stop and for us to start performing on a Saturday.”

Having only made a fleeting appearance since his surprise arrival at Easter Road a day before the transfer window closed, the former Sheffield Wednesday, Doncaster Rovers, Notts County and Bristol City hitman is itching for some action, although he revealed the two-week break between his signing and today’s game against St Johnstone had also brought some benefits.

He said: “It has been frustrating. I got ten minutes the day I got here and that’s been about it. But the international break has been good as well because I have got to know the lads. I got two weeks training with them, so it’s been going well.

“I’ve enjoyed the training, the lads have been great and I’m looking forward to some games now. I played in the closed-doors game at Rangers and managed to score a goal and also get some minutes under my belt.”

Even now, a fortnight after a move from Rugby Park to Edinburgh which was concluded with such speed he didn’t even meet his new team-mates until just before the clash with County, Heffernan admits to being baffled by the manner of his Rugby Park departure.

With the remainder of this season left on his contract at the Ayrshire club, he insists he had no thoughts of moving on.

Killie have since sent out mixed signals, with chairman Michael Johnston quoted as saying that, as the club’s highest earner, Heffernan’s departure would free up wages for manager Allan Johnston, who then hinted he’d felt the Dublin-born striker wanted to leave.

Heffernan, who had spent two years with Killie, refuted that suggestion. He said: “I didn’t expect it at all. I had the rest of the season left at Kilmarnock and I hadn’t thought about leaving or anything like that.

“I hadn’t spoken to the manager about leaving. I didn’t know anything about it until I spoke to my agent on the Thursday night and he said he’d spoken to the chairman and that Kilmarnock were willing to let me go for free. That’s when he started making phone calls to Hibs and other clubs, that’s how it happened.

“It was a strange way to end. I had two great years there. I enjoyed it, I enjoyed working with the staff and everyone was great. But that’s what happens sometimes when a new manager comes in. Maybe he wanted to use my wages to get some other players in. I don’t know.

“I didn’t even have time to say goodbye to people. I literally went home from training on the Thursday thinking I would be back in the next day. Then I was told to be at Hibs on the Friday for a medical if I was interested – and, of course, I was.”

Heffernan insisted he didn’t’ know if upsetting Johnston in giving an interview praising former Killie boss Kenny Shiels following his controversial sacking had anything to do with his sudden departure.

He said: “I just did an interview in the summer about Kenny leaving and I said I thought he did a good job at Kilmarnock – which I still think he did. Nothing has changed there.

“That’s all I said but he wasn’t happy with it. Nothing happened. I didn’t get fined or anything like that. I just spoke to the club about it and they said they were not happy with the interview.

“I said to them I didn’t try to say anything bad about the club, I just wanted to say Kenny did a good job.

“I don’t know if it had a bearing on anything. I don’t know, I honestly don’t. I don’t want to fall out with the chairman. I have left the club now.”

As such Heffernan is determined to leave the past behind and concentrate on helping Hibs overcome a sluggish start to the season which has seen them score just three goals in their first five league matches, none of which have come from the strikers.

He is, however, convinced the goals will come and, in particular, for former Swindon Town forward James Collins, who has had to labour under the burden of the £200,000 price-tag Hibs paid for him, a sum unheard of in Scottish football outwith Celtic in recent years.

Backing the 22-year-old to come good, Heffernan said: “We have some good strikers here at the minute. My first challenge is to get into the team. Once I do that I will bring a bit of experience and hopefully a few goals. The team hasn’t been scoring a lot of goals recently but from what I’ve seen in training we have got good strikers. But if you are not scoring goals you can’t win games, it’s as simple as that.

“The pressure always falls on the strikers, so you are judged on the goals you score. You can have great games but if you’re not scoring people don’t think you are doing your job.

“But as I said, I am sure if we create enough chances the strikers will score enough goals. James is looking for his first goal.

“He can’t do anything about the price tag, that’s what the club paid for him. He just has to get on with it.

“He seems to be a confident lad, it doesn’t seem to be affecting him and I am sure once he gets his first one he’ll be off and running because he looks a very good player.”