Michael Weir: I understand why Hibs are flat – but they must raise game against Aberdeen
Hibs face exactly the same challenge as they did at Kilmarnock when they take on Aberdeen at Easter Road in the final game of the season on Sunday.
Like Killie, the Dons are chasing down that third place in the Premiership table which will guarantee them Europa League football next season.
As for Hibs, our season fizzled out a couple of weeks ago and it was evident at Rugby Park that things had gone flat. Paul Heckingbottom has detected a lack of “buzz” among the players in training ahead of that game and it probably came as no surprise to him that they produced what he described as a rubbish” performance.
Obviously, everyone would love to go out on a bit of a high this weekend with a win. It wouldn’t really change anything, but it would let the fans head home happy and looking forward to the start of next season.
It’s hard to get going again, but Aberdeen have something to play for and they’ll be going for it so we have to find a way to stir ourselves, match them in effort and desire and hopefully produce a display a good deal better than at Kilmarnock.
However, I know just how difficult it can be as a player in this situation. There will be guys going into this match – as they did last week – unsure of their futures, whether it will be here in Edinburgh or somewhere else.
There are those such as Marc McNulty, Stephane Omeonga, Ryan Gauld and Thomas Agyepong, who will be returning to their parent clubs but the fact they’ve been allowed out on loan to Hibs will, I’d imagine, be there in their subconscious wondering if they’ll stay back there or be off to another new club after the summer.
I’d imagine given the impact McNulty and Omeonga have had, Hibs will try to get them back for another season or possibly on permanent contracts but the reality is they belong to Reading and Genoa respectively, giving those clubs the big say in what happens.
Then there are other players who are coming to the end of their contracts which is mentally difficult. You have to put yourself in the position these guys are in, thinking of what lies ahead not only in their careers but for their families.
All sorts of things go through your mind, the possibility of getting injured at just the time you might be looking for new employers. It does make it hard to focus 100 per cent.
Heckingbottom will also be finalising his thoughts ahead of what will undoubtedly be a rebuilding job over the coming months, which players he thinks will be good enough to take Hibs on from what we’ve achieved over the course of the past few seasons, the Scottish Cup win, the Championship title and promotion, in the battle for runners-up behind Celtic until the second last game a year ago and, now, back-to-back top six finishes.
It’s a good platform on which to build, one which gives good reason for optimism going forward.
While players will go, a good number will remain, giving Heckingbottom the nucleus of his new-look squad which will be boosted by the return from injury of Martin Boyle – his pace will add a real threat again – and Ryan Porteous while it’s been good to see young Fraser Murray, now he appears to be clear of the injury problems he’s had, beginning to claim a place in the first-team set-up. Midfielder Scott Allan, of course, returns to the club on a permanent deal this summer and his class will only enhance the squad.
It’s hard to get through a season with a “tight” squad but, on the other hand, there’s no point in having 20-plus players if you think there’s three or four who are not capable of doing a job for you.
Players who come in will have to enhance the squad and we need a bit more going forward both in midfield and up front and hopefully that’s what the manager will have in mind.