HIBERNIAN chairman Rod Petrie last night issued a rallying cry to supporters, urging them to back the club and boost their hopes of avoiding relegation.
The Easter Road side head into the final six games with a six-point advantage over bottom club Dunfermline in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.
Hibs appointed Pat Fenlon as manager in November following the departure of Colin Calderwood – who was sacked following 12 wins in 12 months in charge – and Petrie is confident the team is in better shape now than it was at the start of the season.
In an open message to supporters on the club’s official website, he said: “Your team needs you – it’s as simple as that.
“If we do not rally to the cause no-one else will. Supporters will help determine how good an end to the season we have and the shape of the team for next season. We had a catastrophic 2011 to add to the problems in 2010. We made mistakes, I made mistakes. I am sorry. We have paid for these mistakes. That was then, this is 2012.
“We face the business end of the season with a stronger management team and a stronger playing squad than we had on the opening day.”
Petrie, whose statement came 24 hours after the club announced a boardroom shake-up which will see managing director Fife Hyland leave at the end of the season and Scott Lindsay return to his role as chief executive, insists there is no need for Hibs to choose between SPL survival and success in the William Hill Scottish Cup this season.
He added: “This is not the league campaign we wanted. However, a semi-final tie against Aberdeen on 14 April has the potential to take us to a Scottish Cup final for the first time since 2001. This could yet be the season that all Hibernian supporters talk about for years to come. How can we make it happen? Support the team.
“There are some who want to talk us into looking down not up, even trading failure in the league for success in the cup. Now is the time for clear heads and calm nerves. We can succeed in both.”
Fenlon, meanwhile, says he has been left bewildered by the “ludicrous” SPL post-split fixtures, which will see Hibs play their five fixtures on four different days of the week.
Hibs, currently six points clear of Dunfermline at the foot of the table, initially face two Sunday matches before playing on a Monday, Wednesday and Saturday in May.
Three different kick-off times are in effect after the split, including an unusual 3.15 pm start for the trip to St Mirren on Sunday, 29 April which will be televised on Sky Sports.
Hibs fans also face a 250-mile round trip on a Wednesday evening to play Aberdeen.
Fenlon was honest in his assessment of the fixtures announcement, saying: “It’s peculiar. I don’t know who has sat down and worked them out, but [it] is crazy. It’s ludicrous, but you have to get on with it. We can only approach the games properly and make sure at the end of it we are still in the league.
“Saturday afternoon is football day in most people’s eyes but you’ve now got four different days and however many different kick-off times.”