Paul Heckingbottom’s job at Hibs safe for now – but clock is ticking
Hibs won’t succumb to a knee-jerk reaction and sack under-fire manager Paul Heckingbottom in the wake of Sunday’s defeat by Hearts.
But the clock is most certainly ticking for the Yorkshireman who, having breezed into Easter Road and guided a side then sitting eighth into a top six finish thanks to a run of ten matches unbeaten, has suddenly found those fans who hailed his early endeavours turning against him.
The question now is just where is the former Barnsley and Leeds United manager’s next win going to come from, his current record a miserable sole victory from his past 11 Premiership matches, one which stretches back to a 2-1 success at Tynecastle in April – now he is inhabiting a totally different world.
A small demonstration by angry supporters – said to number fewer than 200 – gathered outside the Main Stand at Easter Road having watched Hibs surrender the lead to their rivals who had gone into the match with boss Craig Levein under even more pressure, his side starting the derby rock-bottom of the table.
Those fans didn’t hang around too long, but these things tend to gather momentum with, arguably, Heckingbottom facing a make-or-break period, Wednesday night’s Betfred Cup quarter-final away to Kilmarnock followed by a visit from champions Celtic and then a trip to Aberdeen.
While the feeling persists among those who make such decisions that Heckingbottom deserves more time having reshaped his squad over the summer, they can’t turn a blind eye, aware that results have to improve – and quickly.
The head coach can have no complaints about any lack of backing, nine signings sanctioned over the summer to go with the earlier deal struck to bring Scott Allan back to the club with a reported, and undisputed, £350,000 having been forked out on striker Christian Doidge who has done little to repay that fee, two goals against Championship sides Alloa and Morton in the league cup all he has to show for his limited efforts. Despite bringing in all these new faces, Heckingbottom does not appear to be fully behind them, only four in the starting line-up to face Hearts while six had been relegated to the bench eight days earlier at Rugby Park.
In defeat against Killie that day there was an improvement from the 3-0 hammering by Motherwell a week earlier and, at the weekend it was better again. The bottom line, however, was his side were beaten at home by the league’s bottom team, shipping another two goals.