Michael Weir: Why I won’t be judging Hibs’ Paul Heckingbottom until this time next season
Paul Heckingbottom has done a fantastic job in salvaging our season – but I believe he shouldn’t be judged until this time next season.
When he walked in we were a mess, to be honest. We were not a side at all, not looking like doing anything. So you have to give him credit for what he has done in getting the best out of the players he’d inherited.
The season ended on a bit of a low, not managing a win in the five games following the split but that shouldn’t be allowed to cloud the job he has done. Fifth place is perhaps a bit disappointing given we’d enjoyed that run of ten matches unbeaten but having been eighth when he took over, I’m sure everyone would have jumped at such a finish back then.
Don’t forget he did it with someone else’s squad and brought in just one player, Jonathan Spector, but now fans can start looking forward to seeing what he can do with the signings he will bring in over the summer.
It certainly looks as if there’s going to be plenty of new arrivals with so many players having been released this week, although a good many of them had loan deals coming to an end.
Heckingbottom himself acknowledged the need to turn possession and territorial superiority into goals. It was a recurring theme throughout the season and was again evident against Aberdeen. I thought we deserved at least a draw and we had enough chances to win the game, but once more we didn’t take them.
As Heckingbottom said, it’s not just about the strikers but everyone throughout the team chipping in. Stevie Mallan got into double figures from midfield and that was the target I set myself as a winger each season.
Although our main strikers back then were Keith Wright and Darren Jackson, Gareth Evans would get among the goals, we could rely on Pat McGinlay getting ten to 12 each season, while guys like Gordon Hunter and Graham Mitchell would contribute three or four.
Having Martin Boyle back will undoubtedly help. His pace both out wide and through the middle will cause any team problems and I think we’ll see more from Daryl Horgan. He showed by scoring twice against Hearts at Tynecastle that he has goals in him.
Horgan had a sticky spell to start with, but to me he is a wide player all day long and I believe he’ll do more damage from those areas.
I liked the look of young Fraser Murray. His pass for Marc McNulty’s goal was sublime, but it will be up to him to kick on next season, as will Oli Shaw and Ryan Porteous.
Fraser has shown potential, but that’s all it is. We’ve seen glimpses of what he can do, the ability he has and hopefully he can be a good player for us.
Losing Boyle and Porteous at the turn of the year was a massive blow, but we’d struggled badly with injuries to key players throughout and it was only when we began to get them back that we managed to string the results together. Hopefully we’ll keep the squad fit and healthy next season.
Add in the players Heckingbottom will be bringing in, I don’t think we will be too far away.
But one thing I feel has to be addressed is taking care of winning the games we’re expected to win, the matches against the so-called lesser teams. These are the results which can define your season.
The big games take care of themselves, but drawing at home to the league’s two bottom clubs, St Mirren and Dundee, and against Livingston – having lost to them earlier in the season – did, along with other results, cost us dearly when you add up the dropped points from those fixtures.