Why Hibs got last year's pre-season 'wrong' as Lee Johnson reflects on Bournemouth friendly

Hibs manager Lee Johnson has admitted the club ‘got last year’s pre-season wrong’, as he reflected on this summer’s training camp in Spain.
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The Easter Road side spent a week in the Algarve last year, playing and winning friendly fixtures against Hartlepool United and Burton Albion but Johnson, who now has the benefit of a full season as Hibs boss under his belt, feels those matches didn’t adequately prepare his side for a forgettable League Cup campaign and a seesaw start to the league season.

“Last season I thought we got our pre-season wrong; I don’t think the quality of those pre-season games were good enough, but out here we’ve had two really good challenges. This was a brilliant exercise in the heat and the end of a really tough and physical week training,” he said after the 4-0 friendly defeat by Bournemouth.

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David Brooks and Jaidon Anthony scored early on for the Cherries, with substitute Philip Billing adding a brace in the final period, with the game split into three 30-minute spells. Jake Doyle-Hayes rattled the crossbar while Dan MacKay was unfortunate to see a well-taken effort chalked off for what must have been an extremely close offside call.

Lee Johnson is more satisfied with Hibs' approach to pre-season this year. Picture: Paul Devlin / SNS GroupLee Johnson is more satisfied with Hibs' approach to pre-season this year. Picture: Paul Devlin / SNS Group
Lee Johnson is more satisfied with Hibs' approach to pre-season this year. Picture: Paul Devlin / SNS Group

“There is lots to digest from that performance. I don’t like losing football matches, but I understand why we lost, and I’m excited by how the current squad is shaping up. I know what we need ahead of the start of the season. The first ten or 12 minutes I thought we were poor, but then we started to play our way and for the next 30-40 minutes we were much better. I don’t mind if we fail playing our way, we were much better with ball retention (during that period) and grew into the game,” Johnson told the Hibs website.

Johnson believes the oppressive heat in southern Spain can help his charges when they return to Scotland. Their next game is against Dutch second-tier side Groningen at Easter Road on Friday night, and the head coach outlined what he expects to be different from his players.

“It has been an intense week for us, which the heat has magnified. When we come back to the normal climate we will gain that extra yard, that extra breath, and our fitness levels will have improved greatly. We’ve had a good balance between rest, play, and hard work but the squad bonding is key on trips like this and this has been an excellent week for us out here."

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Johnson is expected to hand further gametime in the remaining friendlies to the quartet of younger players who made the trip to Marbella. Jacob MacIntyre, Reuben McAllister, Kanayo Megwa, and Rudi Molotnikov have caught the eye in the three pre-season friendlies so far against Edinburgh City, Europa, and Bournemouth, and it could be a big season for them if they can maintain their performance levels and keep progressing under the tutelage of the coaching staff.

"In the last 30 minutes I tended to watch the youngsters – Reuben McAllister was excellent against a good Premier League side; Jacob MacIntyre came up to me after the game and told me he had never played against a team that good. Playing against these teams helps expand your knowledge and develop as a player,” Johnson explained.

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