Well October is already well-aired and it seems such a while since I saw the Hibs play. When I say ‘play’ I mean in the flesh – actually watching from the seats at good old Easter Road or elsewhere. Watching on the television – and these days via the Internet, while a handy substitute, does not really cut it for me personally. I’d rather watch one live game than twenty on a screen.
It’s been a summer of revision of course. Erstwhile hero and former manager Mixu Paatelainen has left the club to be replaced by John ‘Yogi’ Hughes and big John has brought with him from his years at Falkirk, a rather large new broom to the club.
I have to confess that in the past, John was never a man I would have chosen to run the team I love. There were things I appreciated about his style sure, but I was quite a fan of the perhaps more sophisticated approach of John Collins, though I’m certain there will be many dissenters with that view. The point is that I hoped for a similar ‘modern’ manager at the helm and John Hughes with his apparent, rough around the edges approach to the beautiful game and life in general didn’t seem to fit my criteria.
There were times when the former Hibs central defender appeared to relish rubbing up some of the Hibs support during his visits as Falkirk’s manager. I felt some of his antics were uncalled for at times, in spite of some goading by the Hibees support no doubt, and this reinforced my view of ‘never at Easter Road please.’
We should always give a man a fair chance though and I felt it an intriguing choice by Rod Petrie and the Hibs board in choosing the Leith man to take up the difficult reigns of what had become a slightly poisoned chalice after Collins and Paatelainen. Further, it’s interesting to note the changes that John had brought about in his short stay in the job so far.
Of course any manager will stand and fall by his team’s results on the field of play, and there have been some encouraging signs amidst a little unexpected mediocrity thus far. If I’d to produce a school report for the big man at this point, I’d offer a ‘Shows promise’ comment. As always, it pays to be patient if you’re a Hibby, and now is no different. There was initial criticism and some disquiet of Hughes for raiding his former club to boost Hibs’ ranks but I feel this is fairly normal behaviour for any manager moving clubs who has seem talent and promise within individuals of the group of players he has been working with day, day out. What has subsequently been more remarkable is the way the Hibernian board have decided to back Hughes’ judgment in his prospective signings. This was not the case, at least to the same degree, with the previous two managers.
Hibs’ John Hughes in pensive mood
Suddenly, Hibs appear to have more outright quality in the squad than prior. A quick look at some of the slightly bargain basement signings necessitated by John Collins just two years ago confirms this. Man for man, the Hibees appear to be stronger in most areas of the pitch, with the arguable exception of central defence – a situation which I am convinced will be addressed in the next transfer window. In recent times two relatively expensive and expansive additions to the squad in the shape of Anthony Stokes and Liam Miller have been added to the squad. These additions have augmented some successful squad embellishments as Kevin McBride, David Wotherspoon and Danny Galbraith. It remains to be seen how all of the new men will work out in the long term but the signs so far are healthy. Meantime the excellent past Mixu moves, paving the way for the return of former favourites Ian Murray and Derek Riordan are, and will, enhance the squad hugely. It all looks good if the team can marry their quality with a good work ethic. I’m sure this will happen under John Hughes – a man who always stressed the worth of an honest day’s toil.
The new manager has so far spent a lot of time and focus in the media. The big fellow is certainly never short of a word or two for the press, radio and TV. Some may even claim him verbose. What is apparent though is his honesty and transparency and that is heartening. I like to consider myself as something of a football purist and Hughes’ adherence to playing the game the ‘right’ way sits very well with my sensibilities, more power to him in that. It’s all the more surprising when one thinks back to John’s career in the famous old Green and White jersey as a no-nonsense centre half with his tales of ‘square goes’ and ‘getting it right up the Jambos’!
I have to say I’m heartened and warming to the man. Does it show? I think he’s the ‘real thing’ and a damned good fit for Hibernian Football Club. I’ll be watching for his progress with great interest over the coming months.
Persevere, John Hughes.