Ian Murray: It’s Hibs’ title to throw away

Hibs have won their first five matches in the Championship this season. Pic: SNS
Hibs have won their first five matches in the Championship this season. Pic: SNS
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Former Hibs captain Ian Murray believes his old club will cruise to the Championship title with plenty to spare.

The Easter Road side are currently two points clear of Queen of the South at the top of the table and will be looking to make it a flawless six league wins on the spin when they host Ayr United on Saturday.

Hibs have already claimed more points than city rivals Hearts had at this point two years ago on their own romp to the second-tier title, and Murray, who made close to 300 appearances for the Leith side across two separate spells, believes they are looking ominously strong in relation to their rivals.

“No disrespect to the other clubs, but it’s looking like Hibs will win it fairly comfortably,” Murray told the Evening News. “They were really good against Brondby in the Europa League and now they’ve won five out of five in the league so you can’t get much better than that. I think they’re just going to keep getting better as the season goes on.

“I think they’ll pull away the way that Hearts did two years ago because I think most of the other teams in the Championship find it hard to sustain the type of form Hearts, Rangers and now Hibs have shown in this league. I think any half decent run should be enough to see Hibs home. It’s their title to lose, no question about that.”

Murray, who has a good grasp of the Championship after managing at this level in each of the previous four seasons, believes Neil Lennon’s buoyant team could have one hand on the title by Christmas. “It’s the sign of a really good team when they’re grinding out results no matter how well or bad they’re playing,” he said. “I can see them churning out results for the foreseeable future and building up a ten-point lead by Christmas, and then they’d be well on their way. I don’t see why they can’t sustain this winning run for a good while longer.

“It’s very difficult to go a full season undefeated so they’ll come unstuck at some point, no question about that, but I don’t see them losing many games.

“They’re not conceding a lot of goals and they’ve got a prolific goalscorer in Jason Cummings, so it’s a perfect blend. They’ve got so many good players for this level. Even if one isn’t firing, they’ve got plenty other quality players they can rely on.”

Hibs failed to win promotion in each of the previous two seasons, but Murray believes that, with Hearts and Rangers now out of the equation and Dundee United taking time to find their feet in the second tier, the coast is clear for the Easter Road side.

“There are a lot of different factors involved this season that make Hibs better equipped to go up than in previous years,” he said. “They’ve changed their approach a wee bit in terms of the way they play, which is normal when a new manager comes in. The league is also different this year without Hearts or Rangers being in it and there’s a different focus on Hibs because of that.

“There’s also a different aura around the club because of the Scottish Cup win.

“It’s Hibs’ third season in the Championship so they know what’s required, whereas a team like Dundee United have just come down so they’ve got a huge transition to undergo. I saw it last year when I was at St Mirren. When a team gets relegated, finances change, managers change, teams change so it can be hard to adapt to a new league straight away. The only change Hibs have made was the new manager coming in but even then Neil came in on the back of a cup win which has generated a real feelgood factor about the club. He’s also been able to add a good calibre of player.”