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.

Collins was a player in bad need of a goal.  As the replacement for the inspirational Leigh Griffiths the big striker has suffered from comparisons with a player he couldn’t be more different from.  Griffiths single handedly concealed the lack of pace and attacking threat Hibs possess by frequently creating goals out of nothing, something Collins will never do.  However, he runs himself into the ground and holds the ball up well and hopefully his vital strike against Thistle will start the goal rush his effort deserves.  If Butcher can inject some incision into the rest of the team there is every sign that Collins could strike up a decent strike partnership with Paul Heffernan when the more prolific Irishman returns from injury.  Fleeting glimpses and the winning goal in the Highlands aside Danny Handling has failed to impress playing off Collins despite Butcher reverting the youngster to his favoured more central position.  

Butcher also has strength of character in abundance and a pleasing attention to detail demonstrated when substituting Ross Caldwell 10 minutes after the striker came on the pitch during a disinterested performance against Ross County.  Butcher has promised that every member of his team will show no less than 100% and it is encouraging that he seems to be sticking to his word.  This also gave an example of his proactive use of substitutions and it is refreshing to have a manager who appears capable of changing games.  Hibs set pieces have also improved no end and Butcher has made another positive move by reintroducing Paul Cairney into the starting eleven.  Hibernian’s best spell under his predecessor Pat Fenlon coincided with Cairney starring on the wing and there are signs the former Partick Thistle man is returning to that form.  

Terry Butcher is not solely responsible for Hibs upturn in form.  Along with Maurice Malpas and Steve Marcella he is part of a highly effective management team.  Too often in the past Hibs have appointed managers with no support staff.  Ridiculous assistant manager appointments such as Billy Brown and Derek Adams have hampered rather than helped recent bosses.  The new Hibs manager will benefit immensely from having support he can rely on including Marcella’s excellent scouting and recruiting skills.  Off the 11 Inverness players who completely outclassed Hibs at Easter Road just before Butcher took over, Steve Marcella brought seven to the Highland club.  He and Malpas are also accomplished coaches and this builds confidence that the January transfer window will be a successful one for Hibernian.

In many ways Terry Butcher has taken charge of Hibs at the perfect time.  The board will give him time and money as they seek to overturn a suspect record of appointing managers whilst the support will be understanding as they realise the scale of the task he faces and are pleased the new manager was their most popular choice for once.  Whilst it is undoubtedly early days in what will hopefully be a long and successful spell at Easter Road the early signs are positive.  He now needs to ensure this is not just down to the customary boost clubs receive under new management, starting against a rampant Celtic side next weekend.
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0 # Bobby S 2013-12-08 21:39
Big problem is the squad has little in the way of goalscorers - Paul Hanlon with 8 is current top scorer. There's no 20 goal a season strikers, or ten goal a season midfielders. That isn't going to be solved overnight.
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