Michael Weir: Rebuild of Hibs defence should have begun this time last year

We weren’t the only ones breathing a sigh of relief at the weekend with five of the eight Betfred Cup matches being played into extra-time.

Wednesday, 21st August 2019, 6:30 am
Updated Wednesday, 21st August 2019, 7:30 am
David Gray and Darren McGregor are two stalwarts of the Hibs defence. Pic: SNS

As always, the only thing that counts in such games is making sure your name is in the hat for the next round but, as happy as we were to do that, it was rather disappointing we didn’t win more convincingly.

At 2-0 up we looked to be well in control but it seemed that a bit of complacency crept in and, with nothing to lose, Morton went for it. When they scored their first goal I think it was evident our confidence had taken a bit of a hit following that terrible result at Ibrox.

The concern for me, though, is that we are losing far too many goals, and poor ones at that. When Paul Heckingbottom first came in we were going to difficult venues like Tynecastle and looking very strong.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

But now we need to get things sorted out, to tighten up at the back because if you keep conceding goals as we have in the past couple of games then you are in trouble. We can’t be thinking that if we lose three goals we can score five.

Clean sheets are the key to any successful team, everything comes from being hard to beat. My worry, however, is that a rebuild of the defence should have begun this time last year. On paper we appear to have the numbers but if we lose one or two to injury - and we already have Darren McGregor and Tom James out, then I don’t feel there’s too much to fall back on.

We can’t rely on players who are 34 and 35 every week - I know myself how difficult it was when I was 32 and 33.

Heckingbottom has brought in Adam Jackson and Tom James at the back, but they’ll need time to settle and while we have youngsters like Ryan Porteous and Sean Mackie I think it would be asking an awful lot of them to shoulder the responsibility on a weekly basis.

Porteous is one who has a lot of potential but at the moment that’s all it is. He’s only 20 and has barely 50 first-team matches to his name, the majority of them with Edinburgh City in League Two, so I believe it would be unfair on him to be thrust into what’s a tough position to play every week. We also need to find a settled, balanced side.

Heckingbottom made six changes for the Morton game - probably something he felt he had to do after the Rangers result - but you can’t go chopping and changing from game to game.

When he first came in Hibs did very well at a time when, as he has said, he only had 12 or 13 fit players. Now it’s almost as if he’s spoiled for choice but the key for me is to decide what formation, what system suits your players best, to pick a settled starting XI and play it as much as you possibly can.