The Hibs players have been involved in a lively discussion with each other as they strive to get their season back on track.
With the team having gone six games without a win, senior players, including injured captain David Gray, felt the need to get the squad talking about their recent slump in an effort to snap out of it.
“It was the more experienced boys having a chat with the full squad,” said midfielder Stevie Mallan. “I think it happens at every club. It was a talk about what is happening, everyone here knows the script. We’ll keep what was said in-house, but it was just a lively chat among the boys.
“It’s very rare to get altogether to talk so I think it was a healthy chat to see what’s going on and how we can help the manager and his staff. We know what we want to do as a club. We have set our own targets and goals, particularly looking towards the end of December. Hopefully, after this run of games we will know roughly where we’ll sit in the league and can set the next set of goals after that.”
Mallan, 22, believes that strong leadership in the dressing-room can help get Hibs back on track. “We have a good nucleus here,” he said. “We have older guys like Davie, Paul, Lewis Stevenson and Stevie Whittaker. You learn a lot from the experienced players and what they have to say. They have been through different highs and lows in their careers, so it is good to get the knowledge.
“It also helps the younger ones be a bit more confident in the dressing room and get a chance to speak. It’s a healthy thing. When you have those players around you, it makes you better. We are lucky to have them.”
Barren runs such as the one Hibs are currently on are nothing new for Mallan. He experienced some difficult times at previous club St Mirren, whom Hibs host tonight, but the difference is that he views the present situation merely as “a blip” rather than a potential slide towards the Championship. “Most seasons at St Mirren I was near the bottom of the league,” said Mallan. “I have been through relegation battles there and taken a lot of experience from that. When I first broke in at St Mirren, we were down at the bottom of the league. I was just a young boy and it wasn’t a nice place to be with relegation and people losing their jobs.
“I went through a lot there and it was a hard thing to take. I never want to get back to that. I want to be at a club competing near the top of the league and the goals haven’t changed here. We want to get a few wins under our belt to move back up. I think we can do that over the next month. The expectations at Hibs are so high because this is a massive club. They got their highest-ever points total last season and I wanted to push myself as a player by coming here. I couldn’t think of a better club to do that. I think everyone in the squad knows it’s just a little blip just now. A few things haven’t gone our way and it’s cost us games or points.
“We have two games over the next four or five days to rectify things a bit. If we win them, we move straight back up and everyone starts talking about how well the team is looking again. Those are the highs and lows of football. We want to start getting back on the positive side and showing how we express ourselves as a team.”
Given their recent form, and with games against Celtic, Rangers (home and away) and Hearts to come later this month, tonight’s match – Hibs’ most winnable December fixture on paper – is now loaded with significance. Victory could act as a catalyst for their season, but equally another slip-up would serve to cast their plight in an even gloomier light. “Everyone in the team knows what an important game this is,” said Mallan. “We need to get back to winning ways, start climbing up this table and this is a great opportunity to start. We are playing against a good side, but we know ourselves that we can rectify the performances we have put in recently and get a victory.
“We are just going through a little lull as a squad. Most teams in the league have gone through a spell when they have been struggling to get a win. It’s just our turn. We can only find it in ourselves to get out of it and December is the best time to do that, due to the sheer number of games you have coming up. The fixtures come thick and fast and you don’t have any chance to think about previous matches. As soon as you finish one, you are focusing on the next. This is the time to show the strength of our squad.
“We might be in the bottom half of the table now, but wins against St Mirren and Hamilton take you right back up into the mix and would give us real confidence going into the run of games with Celtic, Rangers and Hearts. You want to rack up the points and get a boost going into those games. They are massive fixtures against the sort of sides we want to be up competing with. We want to be a force in this league and over the next few games I think we’ll show we can do that.
“Nothing has really changed from the start of the season. Training is still the same and we are still confident, we just need to get that win under our belt. I think you’ll see everyone get a lift after that.”