Hibernian

Hibs fans also to blame for slump

Written by Lewis Barnes.

Once again the Scottish cup has eluded Hibs.  A home tie against lower league opposition who have not scored this calendar year was always going to be a match only Hibs could lose.  Add into the equation one of Raith’s best players being on loan from Easter Road and many others in their squad and the manager being Jambos and there was inevitability about Hibs demise.  If good things come to those who wait Hibs fans are due something pretty special.

Credit to Raith for a determined and skilled performance including some inspired goal keeping which saw them deservedly through to the next round but in truth Hibs have only themselves to blame.  Celtic had just been knocked out as the game kicked off at Easter Road and with Rangers and Hearts a shadow of their former selves there may not have been a better opportunity to bring the Scottish cup back to Leith for the first time in 112 years.  But a fourth defeat in a row has seen the Terry Butcher revolution stall.

From back to front it was a wretched display.  The returning Paul Hanlon looked like a player short of match practice and forgetting how much his form had improved under a new manager.  The rest of the back four were no better.  Defensively Hibs were a shambles and have now conceded 10 goals in their last 3 home games.  Alex Harris still seems short of sharpness and a long way off the player who sparkled on last year’s run to the final.  James Collins, for all his hard work does not finish or have the first touch or pace to justify his significant transfer fee but in many ways captain Liam Craig is the biggest problem.  Butcher is woefully misusing him as a defensive midfielder.  A prolific goal scorer and creator as an attacking midfielder at St Johnstone his performance and distribution was poor once again from a deeper role.  The set up play in Paul Heffernan’s great but spurned chance to force a replay gave a reminder of what Craig can produce in the attacking third but if Butcher requires a defensive midfielder it is hard to see why the exiled Kevin Thomson isn’t a better option.  The former club captain and Scotland internationals game may not be perfectly suited to Butcher’s tactics of getting the ball forward as quickly as possible but Saturday’s game was screaming out for his composure and skill.

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What has Terry Butcher changed at Hibs?

Written by Lewis Barnes.

A richly deserved and long overdue Edinburgh derby victory concluded an excellent festive period for Hibs.  Ten points from a possible twelve propelled the club into the top 6 and continued Terry Butcher’s encouraging start to life at Easter Road.

Twice this season Hearts have scored the only goal in Edinburgh derbies to beat Hibs.  Aberdeen are the only other side to lose to the Jambos over 90 minutes this season.  Particularly in the league cup game in October Hibs had the better of their city rivals yet lost so when 45 minutes of predominantly Hibernian attacks resulted in a goalless half time score the home contingent of the new Easter Road’s first capacity crowd could be forgiven for anxiety overtaking pleasure at a decent first half display. 
 
However, instead of another defeat Hibs recorded a victory that was far more convincing than the scoreline suggests.  So what has changed?

Firstly and probably most importantly is confidence.  The Hibernian players now seem more relaxed and enjoy their football more.    Butcher has worked wonders installing positivity into a beleaguered squad and a string of good results will only keep this momentum going.  The Hibs players now possess composure and belief and even when Hearts equalised they kept passing the ball about and getting it forward with purpose.  

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Terry Butcher's early Hibernian report card

Written by Lewis Barnes.

 
A last gasp goal from James Collins preserved Terry Butcher’s unbeaten start as Hibernian manager and prevented Hibs wretched home form from getting any worse.  It may not have been pretty at times but Saturday’s draw with Partick Thistle kept the Englishman’s Easter Road revolution on track and ensured Butcher became the first Hibs manager since John Collins not to lose any of his first three games in charge, including clinching a first ever Hibernian victory over Ross County.

Butcher has quickly identified what is required at Easter Road and has set about improving every facet of the team that he possibly can.  Hibs look fitter, hungrier and more organised.  Players are utilised in their natural positions ensuring the team is more solid and comfortable and for the first time in years the full backs are encouraged to overlap.  Hibs have put more crosses into the opposition penalty box in Butcher’s first three games in charge than in Pat Fenlon’s entire tenure.  Indeed, Collins late equaliser came from such a ball into the box.  Every player seems to know their role and are benefiting from a settled line up.  Hibs look a far better team as a result.

One thing which will take Butcher longer to remedy is the complete absence of pace in the Hibs team.  The return from injury of Alex Harris will help but this is the major reason for the lack of goals and creativity Hibs possess.  Our new manager can do little about this until the January transfer window but it severely hampers our attacking options.  This Hibs team are totally incapable of scoring a goal such as Kris Doolan’s opener or the counter attacking play Partick demonstrated throughout.  However, Hibs stuck to the task and especially in the second half gave as good as they got and thoroughly deserved their equaliser.  By no means was it a great performance but it has been a while since a Hibs side had 16 shots on goal and eleven corners.  The team are undoubtedly benefiting from Butcher’s positive approach emphasised by Hibs moving away from the plethora of defensive midfielders which plagued the last regime.

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Hibernian: Likeable Pat Fenlon just not good enough

Written by Lewis Barnes.

AS usual the bookies were correct as Pat Fenlon became the first SPFL manager to leave his job. The writing had been on the wall for some time and whilst Fenlon claimed his mind was made up before Wednesday nights league cup defeat by a Hearts team everyone else seems capable of beating, the derby defeat left his position completely untenable. 
 
After a promising opening period where Hibs should have been well ahead the team like their manager completely lost their way.  It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. 
 
Everyone associated with the club recognised the mess it was in when Fenlon took over after Colin Calderwood’s disastrous reign but if progress has been made it has not been enough.  Fenlon improved Hibs league position by 18 points and four positions in his first full season in charge and took the club to two successive Scottish Cup finals.  However, the quality of football produced and the results in those cup finals tarnish such achievements.

This season 180 minutes against the worst Hearts team in history has brought 2 defeats and no goals. 
 
A small but vociferous protest against Fenlon and the running of the club meant action had to be taken.   Fenlon fell on his sword but would probably have been pushed if he had not.  A win percentage of 35.67% from his 87 games in charge may have been considerably better than the 24.49% managed by his predecessor Colin Calderwood but was simply not good enough. 
 
The 85 points he managed from his 71 league games in charge leaves him above only Calderwood and Franck Sauzee in points accumulated by recent managers.  Fenlon also presided over the two worst results in Hibernian history, the 5-1 Scottish cup defeat by Hearts and the disastrous European adventure against Malmo. 
 
For me Wednesday night was as bad.  Hibs have won only four games at home this calendar year.
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Hibernian: Things should be rosy at Easter Road

Written by Lewis Barnes.

FOLLOWING Monday night’s excellent but entirely undeserved victory at Partick Thistle, Hibs are joint fourth in the SPL table.  The Easter Road club have lost only one of their last seven league games and sit second in the form table over these games behind only Celtic with a league cup victory also squeezed in.  The current league position and results are more than respectable, especially given recent seasons.  We are constantly told what a fantastic season Aberdeen are having but Hibs sit behind them in the table only on goal difference.  Yet Hibs fans remain unimpressed and unenthusiastic.  Pat Fenlon remains odds on to the next SPL manager to be sacked, miles ahead of anyone else in “the sack race”.  So what is wrong at Easter Road?

The first problem is the quality of football being produced.  Hibs fans have always demanded entertaining play.  Even during the disastrous 1997/98 relegation season under Jim Duffy the squad contained players such as Tony Rougier and Kevin Harper.  Tony Mowbray was worshipped at Easter Road due to his young exciting squad and the football they played in qualifying for Europe and yet they won nothing.  The football under Fenlon is turgid.  The recent victory over St Mirren is the only league performance of recent times which was remotely entertaining.  In the seven league games mentioned Hibs have scored only eight goals.  The return of the creative Alex Harris and Paul Cairney from injury will help but they way Fenlon sets up his side does not help.  Against smaller teams, especially at home there is no need to play two defensive midfielders.  Tom Taiwo and Kevin Thomson whilst excellent players are too similar.  Moving the more attack minded Scott Robertson into a central position in place of one of those two would give Hibs more offensive options and allow the promising Abdellah Zoubir or Cairney or Harris to come into the starting eleven.  Liam Craig is starting to produce excellent form, culminating in his winner at Firhill and Scott Robertson is like a different player this season.  Paul Heffernan and James Collins could be an excellent strike partnership but will only score goals if chances are created.  Hibs need to better utilise the attacking options available to them.

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Pat Fenlon's Hibernian report card is not looking good

Written by Lewis Barnes.

 
 
AS another transfer window slams shut and Hibs turn in another turgid performance, the international break provides an opportunity to assess where the Easter Road club, and in particular manager Pat Fenlon are. 
 
Fenlon has now had four transfer windows and nearly two years in the job, longer than the four previous incumbents of his position. So an assessment of the Irishman’s position and achievements are well timed.

Hibernian have had a busy summer in the transfer market.  However, a sizeable transfer expenditure has so far failed to produce results on the pitch with a dire start to the season including just one goal in four competitive home games. 
 
Hibs lost their three top goal scorers from last season.  The departure of Leigh Griffiths, Eoin Doyle and David Wotherspoon has deprived Hibs of forty four goals from the last campaign.  Needless to say, Griffiths in particular with his ability to create goals from nothing is sorely missed.  Rowan Vine, James Collins and now Paul Heffernan have been signed as replacements but so far none have found the back of the net. 
 
This should not be seen as solely a reflection on our new arrivals.  Unlike Griffiths none of these players have the ability to create and take opportunities from nothing and suffer badly from the lack of creativity and service from the rest of the team.

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Pat Fenlon fighting for managerial life after poor Edinburgh derby

Written by Guest.

 
THE expectation this season in the newly-renamed Scottish Premiership is that Celtic will saunter to the title without having to leave second gear, but for the other 11 clubs, there is plenty to play for.
 
Aberdeen and Hibernian are the only two clubs who look stronger than they did last season, with the latter having been in an unusual position to pay a six-figure sum for a player.

Striker James Collins joined the Hibees for £200,000 this summer, and wasn’t the only new face at Easter Road this summer. Ryan McGivern, Owain Tudur Jones, Liam Craig and Rowan Vine have all arrived, but that has been offset by the departure of last season’s top scorer Leigh Griffiths, who returned to parent club Wolverhampton Wanderers after his loan spell.

European misadventure

Having underachieved last year, there was a lot of pressure on Pat Fenlon to at least ensure that Hibs finish in the top six this time round, but if this season’s results are anything to go by, they may struggle. Prior to their first two league fixtures, Hibs were humiliated in the Europa League, losing 7-0 at home to Swedish side Malmo. That result prompted calls for Fenlon’s sacking.

Things didn’t get any better in the league for them, as they lost 1-0 at home to Motherwell, but worse was to come. A week later, in the first Edinburgh derby of the season, they lost by the same score to financially-troubled Hearts, who clawed back three of the 15 points they were deducted for entering administration (again).

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Where Malmo mauling leaves Hibs and Pat Fenlon

Written by Lewis Barnes.

THERE was an air of positivity around Easter Road on Thursday night.  A return to European football, memories of AEK Athens, new signings on show and of course a bumper crowd of over 16 000 to pay tribute to the great, late Lawrie Reilly, the greatest Hibee that ever lived. 
 
Hibs faced an uphill task but the tie was still just in the balance.  The atmosphere was electric.  The scene was set for a great night. 
 
And then the game started.

Make no mistake, Malmo are a good side. Their passing and movement was far beyond anything I have witnessed at Easter Road in recent times and in the aftermath of this result their manager suggested that even he was stunned by the quality of the Swedish performance and the margin of victory. 
 
However this cannot disguise the embarrassment felt.  Malmo are no powerhouse of European football and yet Thursday’s 9-0 aggregate score is the worst result ever by a Scottish club in Europe.  Coupled with the 5-1 Scottish cup defeat a couple of years ago Fenlon has now presided over two of the worst results in Hibernian’s history.  Questions have to be asked.

When Fenlon took over some 20 months ago Hibs were in crisis.  It is hard to argue things are any better now.  His achievements include keeping Hibs in the SPL twice and getting to two successive Scottish Cup finals where we were easily beaten in both.  For Hibs this should not count as achievements. 
 
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