Hibs: Where now?
WELL, THE AFTERMATH of a tragic Scottish Cup Final display smolders on with many disaffected fans and anger raging in many supporters about the way things transpired in the national stadium – a one-sided capitulation so rarely seen.
I’ll begin if I may by commenting on the Final tie – my take on events. The first thing I need to say is that after the build-up to the game which included some fine support by the Hibees’ faithful, many players in green and white completely froze on the day. This was always going to be the main problem – keeping the players focused on doing their job and performing to the best of their abilities in the game. Sadly, the occasion appeared to negatively affect too many players who just couldn’t handle the enormity of the situation and therefore provided little on the day, giving a very poor account of themselves.
Controversy at the final whistle
It needs also to be recorded – and those who know me would confirm that I’m very rarely critical of referees and officials in general – that the ‘small world’ of Scottish football and appointment of Craig Thomson as the man in the middle severely disadvantaged Hibs. Mr Thomson as we know has professed ‘tendencies’ toward our opposition on the day.
Let’s be kind – and this is hard – and say there was no outright bias by Thomson during those ninety minutes, it must still be said though that for some reason at least two pivotal decisions by the man in black were completely inexplicable – let alone forgivable from a Hibs perspective. With the game still in its relative infancy, the opposition midfielder, Black, a combative but narky, snarling little player felled Hibs’ Griffiths with a cowardly challenge from behind featuring an elbow to the man in green’s head which completely felled the player. Thomson duly took Black to one side for what was easily arguable as a red card and after a long lecture did…absolutely nothing – effectively offering Black the opportunity to run around with impunity like a rabid dog for the rest of the game.
After trailing by a couple of goals early in the game and looking a little dead in the water, Hibs staged something of a comeback with a goal which took them into the break with all to play for – ‘next goal’s the winner’ as they say. History records that within seconds of the restart the game was over as Thomson called a penalty against Hibs from a challenge by Kujabi on Suso several feet outside the area. The forward managed to spectacularly dive those final few feet into a sprawling heap in the penalty area and Thomson needed little more to blow for a spot kick and order the Hibs full back off the field.
The game barely into the second half – Hibs 3-1 down and reduced to ten men – there was little way back as the game descended into a training session look-alike of a non-event.
Enough, what of the future then?
Perusing the Hibs forums I see amongst the anger and despair that some people are optimistic regarding the coming season. This I find remarkable considering the season the club has just had, following several other poor seasons of late. I personally like to keep a half-full glass wherever possible concerning Hibs but I’m afraid I cannot share that optimism and see little reason for it apart from blind faith, wishing and hoping.
The club requires a complete overhaul at playing level and a large influx of new players with a hunger to do well, look after themselves like athletes and help the club move away from an apparent very poor culture behind the scenes. One factor that may help in this gargantuan if not impossible task is that manager Fenlon should have a few more resources available, pulled in from Hibs’ cup run and extra renewal of season tickets as a direct consequence of it. I still don’t feel this will be enough however.
I have yet to be convinced about Pat Fenlon. In some ways, for example his strong work ethic, single-mindedness and honesty he is laudable. In other respects such as tactics, team selections and substitutions he has been found wanting and made many mistakes. He has also been almost totally unable to inspire and galvanise the players at his disposal and I have a fear that his players do not necessarily hold him in the greatest respect. This, in fairness, must partly be laid at the players’ door. I feel the task at Hibs is somewhat beyond him but I want to record that I honestly and truthfully hope that he proves me wrong. He needs a further chance to show what he can do.
Pensive – Pat Fenlon
I saw the last Hibs managerial opening as a time when the club could state it’s intent and ambition. What was sorely needed was a ‘big’ confident personality to walk into the club and spread a little daylight and fresh air into what had become a fetid atmosphere. Delivered to the club instead by the club’s fathers was a man who was largely unknown – albeit a success in his own football world in Ireland – but yet again the ‘wrong’ type of manager for Hibs in my humble opinion.
This brings me onto the thorny subject of the ownership of the club and the men placed in charge. It has been customary for more than two decades to place Sir Tom Farmer on a pedestal for ‘saving’ Hibs in those dark days when our club almost vanished forever. This was over twenty years ago however – how much longer are Hibs fans supposed to feel grateful for merely surviving? I’m of the lobby that believes Sir Tom has done his own business prospects little harm – quite the contrary - whilst holding the stewardship of Hibernian Football Club, not that I see a problem with that. I don’t necessarily go with the notion that the club is all that ‘available’ for sale. A man of Sir Tom Farmer’s huge business acumen could sell this club if he had a wish to, I believe. Mr Farmer is known as a benevolent man in some circles, my heartfelt request to him would be to at long last invest some of his vast wealth into Hibs. I’m a realist however and don’t see that happening.
CEO Petrie and Sir Tom Farmer
This finally brings me on to the subject of Sir Tom Farmer’s trusty lieutenant, CEO Rod Petrie. I have never seen eye-to-eye with Mr. Petrie’s ‘vision’ for Hibs. It’s a fairly miserable bean counter’s attitude which has seen the fans long-suffering. We all understand the need for financial prudence – especially in these tough times – but this penny-pinching policy appears hardly ever to be relaxed. Others will argue that point and that’s fair enough as it’s all about opinions but I still feel that Hibs are often beaten back in their pursuit of good players by a flat refusal to push the boat out just a little, whatever the financial dictates of the era are. Time and again Hibs are too cautious and it has resulted in a blandness about the club which does not reflect a colourful, imaginative and oft romantic support This is one of the many reasons I have little optimism for Hibs in the near future. Sights are set too low and sadly, it has to be said, some fans’ expectations have fallen into line with that over the years. Hibs are truly a club that underperforms consistently and attitudes amongst all need to be seriously challenged.
Until that time, I’ll keep supporting Hibs as I’ve always done – hoping for the best – fearing the worst.
‘Glory Glory to the HIbee’ – at long last please?
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