I don’t know whether to be hot or cold. A week or so ago I was melting around the house in shorts and a vest top. Now it’s the complete opposite, I’m freezing. The bedroom window is closed at night, the extra blanket is on the bed. It’s like winter came in a week. This is bad news as I am without a winter coat at the moment. I hope this is rectified before the next Hibs game at home…
…which leads me nicely into the entire purpose of the blog. What the hell is going on at Easter Road?
Or East Mains for that matter. We seem to have gone back in time to the dead years when Butcher got us relegated. That’s the feel about the place at the moment. It’s like Dr Who has transported us back five years and we’re about to go into the slump that would see us, yes win the Scottish Cup after 114-years, but also see us fail to get out of the Championship where we seemed to languish and our rivals were Falkirk and we all know where they are now.
I’m aware that we’re only four games into the actual league season and that some (not many) will say it’s too early to judge Paul Heckingbottom and to that I say – nonsense.
After Lennon left there was a flurry about who would replace him. There were the usual names touted about but absolutely no-one expected the name “Paul Heckingbottom” to emerge (apart from the bookies). As a player he played lower league, he had a fairly successful couple of years as a manager at Barnsley then joined Leeds in February 2018 where he was sacked four months after his appointment on an eighteen month contract.
Leeds binned him saying that they wanted someone with more experience. Hmm.
“Our objective is to bring in a head coach with more experience who can help us reach the goals we have talked about since we became custodians of the club last summer.” Angus Kinnear Leeds MD
So, reading that little nugget of information, why would you hire a manager with little experience to take over from a manager with a HUGE amount of experience both as a player and a manager?
Two managers, Alan Stubbs and Neil Lennon, can be credited with rebuilding Hibs in the last four years or so. Stubbs came in after Butcher trashed the place, rebuilt the team, not only so that they could win but actually restored the dressing room to a happy one where players seemed to get on, there was a camaraderie and we got a peek behind the scenes with such things like the ice bucket challenge.
The feel good factor was starting to come back. And it really did feel good. Alright, we were relegated, something that continued to hurt but Stubbs was turning things around along with Alan “Taff” Holden and John Doolan. While he didn’t get us promoted he brought us the Holy Grail and for that alone he will remain a club legend. Always a pleasure when he visits Easter Road whether as a spectator or pundit. He left a rebuilt club that maybe lacked a few things but was nothing like the mess he had taken over.
Bring in Neil Lennon, Scottish football’s own Marmite character. A few hums and haws about his appointment. Successful with Celtic as both a player and a manager so we knew he was capable. Yet his spell at Bolton as a manager wasn’t the best. However, that probably wasn’t just down to him given that Bolton have had their troubles for many a year.
However, within a season we were back up where we belonged. In the Scottish Premier League. A tough Hibernian team now, we feared no one. We lost games that we should have won, that was true, but there was a definite grit and determination in the team that Lennon walked away from, the team that Heckingbottom inherited.
It doesn’t happen with every new manager at every new team but Heckingbottom was fortunate to have that blissful few games at the beginning of his tenure where it seemed he was going to be a fit. Then it went a bit down hill, which, I’ve found out after a bit of a search around, Heckingbottom blamed on the players, everyone at the club and, of course, the fans.
“I felt it last season. I hated the fact as soon as [qualifying for] Europe was looking hard and Hearts couldn’t catch us, I felt like everyone at the club and the fans downed tools.” Paul Heckingbottom, July 2019
Notably not putting any blame on himself. Which would become a theme.
Hibs managed to snatch a draw from the jaws of a win on Saturday 24th August against St. Johnstone at Easter Road. I actually thought we had a not too bad first half but it went to pot in the second half. Subbing Scott Allan didn’t go down well with the Hibernian faithful. Heckingbottom bluffed around that with his comments about not knowing there was a law against subbing him and alluding to a mystery knock. He then claims he brought him off because Scott was “suffering“, yes, because he was being played out of postion in an area he is not good in, that’s what the booing was for, play him in position and he’ll give you 90 minutes every game.
Then the fans became at fault for making the players anxious. I’m not sure that’s something we’ve ever been accused of before. Definitely a new one on me.
“We were trying to get the boys to relax but the whole stadium was anxious and that spread to the players.
“We are drawing at home and we will draw many more at home this season, without a doubt. It doesn’t help the players – 100 per cent.
“I think they need to encourage more. I don’t want them to draw back because you want to feel the stadium alive.
“But you could see that we were trying to calm them and tell them to stay calm and relaxed, but anxiety was an issue.
“If the fans can stay calm and if something good does happen, then get behind them.” Paul Heckingbottom, 24th August 2019
You lose the fans when you come out with things like that. Wholly and completely and you may even lose a part of the dressing room and the backroom staff, there are many at the club who work for the club and are fans and know what we’ve all been through in the last few years. Maybe he should watch the DVDs about the Scottish Cup win in 2016 and see what the fans mean to the club. And what the club means to the fans.
I’ve had a scout about and I can’t find any interview with him in which he puts any fault on himself for recent weeks at Easter Road. It’s the players or the fans, either or both. It’ll be the gulls fault next for flying near the pitch and frightening the awfully fragile players. The players he made that way.
The other source of frustration within the fan base is that he can’t settle on anything resembling a starting eleven. Every team he puts out is significantly different and I think that’s something he’s going to do, I don’t think he will settle.
Hibernian have put a lot of hard work into the last few years. Getting crowds up significantly and the same with season tickets. Five years ago,where I sit, there were hardly any season ticket holders, now most of the seats are taken by STH’s. The whole club and fan base built as one and a new order was made. Hibs would be very silly to let this be dismantled in a short time by one man.
I have tried to be positive about Paul Heckingbottom, to give him the benefit of the doubt but I can see that he is uncomfortable in the Scottish game. Whether it’s because he doesn’t know it or he doesn’t like it, I don’t know, (his tactics would lean towards not knowing it). To the board, the fans have let you know how we feel (not all of us, there are still some believers) and it’s up to you. The problem, however is NOW. It has to be fixed now, not in a month and not in January.