Paul Heckingbottom: There was not the same buzz in Hibs’ training
Paul Heckingbottom has admitted he’s worried everything will go a bit flat as far as Hibs are concerned now that European football is beyond their reach.
The Easter Road head coach revealed there “wasn’t the same buzz” during training ahead of tomorrow’s match with Kilmarnock who, along with Aberdeen, are still chasing third place in the Premiership table.
Hibs face the Dons in the final game of the season following the trip to Rugby Park and although the remaining games may appear meaningless as far as the Capital club is concerned, Heckingbottom insisted there’s no way his players can go into them feeling sorry for themselves after seeing their ten match unbeaten run ended by Rangers.
Disclosing he was prepared for such a scenario, he said of yesterday’s training session: “They were a little bit flat and I had a chat with a few of them. I’ve said before how honest this group is but I certainly saw there was not the same buzz.
“We were doing the right things, the same things but there wasn’t the buzz. We want to be where they [Kilmarnock and Aberdeen] are and I think that showed.
“We have to be under no illusions, when you are playing agaisnt teams like Kilmarnock and Aberdeen in the last games and they are still fighting for that third spot, we hve to match them or we become unstuck.
“It’s certainly an issue, something that can be a problem but we have looked at it, spoken about it and now I am looking for a response.”
Heckingbottom agreed that facing the two teams who are fighting for Europa League places could also help lift his players, their professional pride dictating that they’ll want to show their opponents they are every bit as good as them even if the same prize isn’t on offer.
“You have to be on your guard against the negatives of the situation we are heading into,” he said. “You are playing against teams you know will have that dig or spark so there’s no way we can be feeling sorry for ourselves.
“We wish it was us. It’s not something that your do intentionally, it’s subconscious. The fire is gone inside you and if you do not have that you are going to become unstuck and it will be a tougher game.”
If things were a bit flat on pitches at East Mains, Heckingbotom admitted he was still buzzing having watched those epic Champions League comebacks from Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur which will see the two face each other in the final in Madrid.
And, he revealed, he fully understood the emotional reaction from Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and his Spurs counterpart Mauricio Pochettino following their wins over Barcelona and Ajax respectively.
He said: “You saw a manager at Liverpool who really affects his players. Not just directly, but in what he says and how he does things. His use of the club, the history of the club, the fans and the stadium – to get everything in sync like that – it produced such a powerful performance that it’s too much for anybody.
“It won’t always work. But what it does is gives you a chance to produce those performances. I don’t think many others could ever do that. Barca could, in their day. They had that presence on the pitch – the thing that Liverpool have now.”
And Heckingbottom admitted that if he’d been in Pochettino’s position – the Spurs manager going through the entire gamut of emotions as Lucas Moura completed his hat-trick in the sixth minute of injury time at the Johan Cruyff Arena – he’d have reacted in the same way.
Revealinf that he’d enjoyed a long discussion with Pochettino after Spurs had knocked Barnsley out of the League Cup two years ago, he said: “As a coach, I get why Poch was like that, 100 per cent. I know if I’d been in his position and spent the amount of time he has working towards that, I’d be the same.
“The big thing I’ll take away from it is Pochettino at the end of the game.
“He is heavily invested in the club, the fans, the players. He’ll feel like they’re his kids on the pitch, so it will have been pride, relief, joy. And he wouldn’t have been expecting it. It just floods out.
“I wanted both of the English teams in the final anyway, but, for him, I was delighted. I was over the moon.”
Admitting he’d “had a moment to himself” aboard an open-top bus as Barnsley celebrated promotion, Heckingbottom added: “That’s why I can probably relate to it, because you invest a hell of a lot of time in the job. And you invest emotionally.
“I’m lucky. I love my job, I love what I do. But it’s also dangerous – because it takes over. And that’s something I struggle with. I know I struggle with it.
“To get that time away, doing something else. You don’t necessarily want it, but you need it, for the good of yourself.”