IT IS perhaps a sign of the times in the modern game that financial constraints will take their toll on the quality of player on display, an aspect supporters across the country are just going to have to get used to.
The game in Scotland is going through a transitional period, both at club level and with the national team. How long the road to recovery is going to take is anyone’s guess.
I would expect most clubs to invest a lot more within their youth academies in the hope that a group of talented teens emerges to cement their long-term futures within the game, but the reality of this actually happening is extremely faint and an option that can take many years to achieve before the results start to appear. Supporters’ patience will be tested, but you must give those players time to find their feet in their new careers.
This is why you need a base of good, experienced pros that can guide and harness the younger ones. Within the SPL, there are clubs which need improvement every season simply because of the demands, standards expected and history. I believe Hibernian Football Club almost certainly fits into that category.
However, if clubs are not prepared to invest year in, year out, there is no doubt you will fall short of the requirements needed to compete. I fully acknowledge that within the current climate this can prove extremely challenging, but if you are looking to improve the club from top to bottom and entice supporters back to football matches, then this has to be looked at. Relying on home-produced players is an extremely dangerous strategy as the percentage of youngsters who actually fulfil their potential is very low.
The loss of another three points against Inverness on Saturday has virtually ensured we will be playing our remaining league fixtures in the bottom six. Failing to win a home league game this year is not the kind of form that has elevated us into in the top positions and battling out for a European place next season. The new additions of the January transfer window have not had the desired effect as I feel they have struggled to make much of an impact and haven’t improved the squad to great effect.
To be fair to Pat Fenlon, the manager has identified that we need to carry more of a threat through the middle of the park and in the wide areas to finish the season strongly. However, the quality required to push on to that level cannot be found in the transfer market we are doing business in. With six league fixtures remaining between now and the end of the season, it is imperative we try to accumulate as many points as we can to keep us away from the lower depths of the league table. However, the real focus now must be on next weekend’s semi-final clash with Falkirk and our opportunity to reach our second consecutive Scottish Cup final. My one concern surrounding this particular fixture at the moment is the poor run of form we are on going into a game of this magnitude. Although I feel we have enough in our locker to come out on top, we must put in a performance on the day that merits our position in this year’s final.
Falkirk are equipped with some decent individuals and will approach the match with confidence as the pressure is all on us to progress. The Hibs starting XI needs to deliver a performance that can send us back to Hampden for another showpiece event, where we all hope to put up a better showing than our last occasion. The disappointment of our league campaign will be cast aside by the majority of Hibs fans, who will recognise there is another real opportunity to end our wait for this prestigious trophy.
We now face a trip to Celtic Park to play the champions-elect in what is always a difficult proposition, but we must look to instil some confidence ahead of our trip to Hampden. We have yet to lose to Celtic this season and it would be nice to keep this record intact.