Soccer

Hibs Manage 3rd Place Finish For First Time in 16 Years

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After 16 years of what can only be described as a roller-coaster, Hibernian FC have secured a third-place finish. This, of course, means European Football, however with a Scottish Cup win next weekend a possibility also, an automatic place in the Europa League Group Stages is on the table for Hibs. This would be a remarkable season, especially considering where they were sitting this time in 2014.

Relegation and Championship Struggles

With Pat Fenlon at the helm for a few thumping defeats, he was eventually replaced at the helm by the Hibs board by Terry Butcher. Butcher had just taken Inverness from relegation to top 6, so it was a move that at the time, was very well received by the Hibs fans. Things started well, until the infamous interview where he seemed to discard half the squad as gone after the seasons end, midway through the current season. It was a strange tactic that no-doubt backfired, however Hibs have gone on to rebuild and come back even stronger.

After going 2-0 up in the relegation play-off with Hamilton, things were looking up for Hibs. The return leg at Easter Road however went drastically wrong. Hibs suffered a 2-0 defeat and then lost on penalties. This sparked protests and anger-filled crowds to rightfully ask for a change. Thankfully, Leeann Dempster had already been drafted in to save the situation, only she wouldn’t have expected a relegation to be one of her tasks. After the season concluded and Hibs were doomed to the Scottish Championship, Dempster began working.

Butcher left, along with the vast majority of the squad. In came Alan Stubbs as Head Coach, with his trusted backroom staff of Andy ‘Taff’ Holden and John Doolan. Together, they began to rebuild, with only 8 players at their disposal upon arrival.

The seasons that came were rough, travelling to grounds such as Dumbarton, Cowdenbeath, Alloa, it wasn’t what the Hibs fans were use to week-in-week-out. The first season seen Hibs, Hearts and Rangers in the second tier. Something that will probably never happen/be matched in Scotland again. The first season seen Hearts go up with relative ease, and Rangers fell to Motherwell in the Playoff final.

The second season seen Rangers go up, however the Hibs fans didn’t mind this time around.

Perseverance

Hibs fans signing their iconic ballad after the Scottish Cup Final in 2016

Hibernian FC had always been one of the bigger teams in Scotland and one of the top performers in Scottish history. They had some huge European nights to remember, they had the Famous Five, they had the League Titles in the 50s, they had the Golden Generation. But they didn’t have the Scottish Cup. About 90% of the jokes and insults thrown at Hibernian until 2016 were Scottish Cup-related. The last success came in 1902, however, after falling in the League Cup Final that season, and falling short in the promotion race, Hibs did the unthinkable.

Not only was it unprecedented that 2 teams from the second tier were in the final, Rangers had just pipped Hibs to the title that season, so with the final being vs Rangers, it seemed they were favorites, and rightly so.

After going 1-0 up in the early stages, Hibs were typically back behind 2-1, shortly after half-time. A second from Anthony Stokes made it 2-2, and the winner came in the last minute from club captain, and now club Legend, David Gray.

hibs captian David Gray
LASGOW, SCOTLAND – MAY 21: David Gray of Hibernian celebrates scoring the winning goal as Hibernian beat Rangers 3-2 during the William Hill Scottish Cup Final between Rangers FC and Hibernian FC at Hamden Park on May 21, 2016 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

The parties that ensued afterwards lasted weeks. This made the promotion and League Cup disappointment okay for Hibs fans. There wasn’t bitterness, this was all we had wanted, literally the whole time supporting the club.

Hibs Get Promoted and Slot Right Back In

After the Scottish Cup dream, Alan Stubbs and his backroom staff left. All in good spirits, but they had other ventures to explore. Hibs went and secured the signature of Neil Lennon. A ferocious player that wore his heart on his sleeve, he brought that attitude and much-needed steel to the Hibs team. He got promoted at the first try of asking, then secured European Football and a 4th place finish in his first season back up. This was made possible by some fantastic signings and helped get rid of a ‘boy-band tag that he described Hibs of having at times.

In that first season, Lennon’s Hibs team played some exquisite stuff. He specifically helped aide the improvement of Martin Boyle. A player Hibs had traded Alex Harris with a couple of seasons earlier, Boyle was seen as the explosive winger without a real end product. Since Lennon, Boyle has been a mainstay in the Hibs XI and one of the, if not the key talisman on the Green Side of Edinburgh. Players such as Simon Murray, Florian Kamberi, and Ryan Gauld all spent time at the Hibees during that period. Lennon’s end came after a poor run of results, and in came Paul Heckingbottom.

Heckingbottom came in and steadied Hibs to a top 6 finish that season, however, things went wrong the next year. In hindsight, a lot of Heckingbottoms signings have turned out to be good for Hibs, see Joe Newell, Christian Doidge, but ultimately things didn’t work out for the former Barnsley boss. A poor start to the season saw Jack Ross come in as a replacement.

Hibernian manager Jack Ross during the Scottish Premier League match between Hibernian and Motherwell at Easter Road on 23 November, 2019 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ewan Bootman/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Since arrival, Jack Ross has had his critics, but he has done more than enough to shut them up. A lot of the things labeled at him were the number of draws at Sunderland, from their fans. This season, out of Hibs and the teams below them, they currently sit on the same amount of losses as Aberdeen, but its the draws that have been excluded. With only 8 compared to Aberdeen’s 11, it’s clear to see Ross has taken the criticism and improved as a coach. Another thing was the lack of big game wins, Hibs have just cruised a Semi-Final vs a decent Dundee United team and showed next to no doubt whilst easing Aberdeen out at Pittodrie.

Again, 2 HUGE games that Ross has come and set the team up to win, and we have.

All in all, Hibs have a lot to be proud of again, and Leeann Dempster and Alan Stubbs(shout-out to George Craig also) have reinstated the stability to the Leith giants, and Jack Ross has further improved on that, with the help of new owner Ron Gordon, Director of Football, Graeme Mathie. The relegation, whilst it hurt, and I can remember standing in the Famous Five sobbing my heart out, in hindsight, might have been the best thing to happen to the club. The Green side of Edinburgh are loving life, and for the first time in a while seem to have a sense of security with the club. A consistent feel-good factor, something that’s criminally understated at successful club.


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