Sunday was nothing more than another derby day misery for Hibs. Yet another bland, toothless performance saw their oldest rivals, Hearts, end a five-match winless run against their Edinburgh foes.
But for Hibs, nothing seems to have changed from last season. A bottom-half finish culminating in that all too familiar Scottish Cup final defeat did nothing to appease a support that is growing increasingly frustrated at the lack of quality on the park, and the start to this season doesn’t help either – especially when you’ve been on the wrong end of the worst aggregate scoreline for a Scottish club in European competition, a horrific 9-0 loss to Swedish side Malmo.
And as far as the support is concerned, much of the blame lies firmly at the feet of Pat Fenlon. Appointed in November 2011 following the dismissal of Colin Calderwood, he only picked up a solitary point from his first five games, which has almost set the tone for the rest of what can only be described as a tumultuous reign.
Although he managed to stave off relegation with the remnants of a disjointed squad inherited from Calderwood, the 5-1 defeat to Hearts in the Scottish Cup Final of that season still, to this day, pains the Hibernian faithful. The following campaign saw a fairly positive start, yet that all faded away at the turn of the year and seventh place in the SPL was as high as the club could muster.
It is obvious where the overlying problem lies however – the squad is not good enough, and hasn’t been for some time. Not since John Collins’ departure as manager have Hibernian possessed a squad that they can be proud of, and seemingly-endless conveyer belt of somewhat average playing staff hasn’t really ceased in that period. Despite signing James Collins from Swindon in the close season for a hefty £200,000, it will certainly be a struggle to fill the void of Leigh Griffiths, who returned to Wolves in the summer.
Without being overly-critical, they were not much more than a one-man team last season. The 28 goals accumulated by Griffiths suggest that he would be a big miss anyway, and the Scottish Cup final defeat to Celtic only confirmed just that, the Hoops backline completely nullifying the threat of the Scotland starlet. Without a Plan B which Fenlon has so often overlooked, the 3-0 loss was rather justified, Hibs deprived of even as much as a shot on target for most of the affair.
The supporters’ patience with Fenlon is now clearly wearing thin, and the two defeats from two games in the newly-revamped Scottish Premiership will have done nothing to brighten the increasingly-dampening mood around Easter Road. His dismissal would only see the unwanted scenario of chairman Rod Petrie forking out a compensation package, and then the equally tedious task of appointing a successor, who like Fenlon, will have to inherit a squad that is perhaps not up to scratch to compete for a top-six spot.
Although they might be saved from the automatic relegation spot due to their rivals’ financial turmoil which has seen them suffer a 15-point deduction, the introduction of the new relegation play-off system might be a trapdoor which they will be keen to avoid. The sacking of Fenlon might not be the answer for a Hibs revival to save their dignity, but some form of change is required at Easter Road. And fast.
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