NO EXCUSES. No more false dawns. The time for Hibernian to prove how competitive they can be is now, according to Paul Heffernan.
The 31-year-old striker was Hibs manager Pat Fenlon’s tenth recruit of the close season, arriving from Kilmarnock just before the transfer window closed. Given the resources put into strengthening the squad, Heffernan believes that the players must prove how good they can be, beginning today at St Johnstone.
“This is a good squad,” he said. “It should be very competitive in this league, and we should be looking for at least a top six finish.
“There are no excuses. We have got the players here – now we have to go out and prove it on a Saturday.
“This is the time to start judging us now. The window is shut, the players are in. It’s time for the talking to stop and for us to start performing on a Saturday. Especially at home, the home form has to improve.”
The blunt honesty of those remarks was emphasised when Heffernan was asked if the move from Rugby Park to Easter Road was a step up. Players often like to declare that their new employer is “a massive club”, but he avoided that cliche. Instead, he admitted it was up to himself and his colleagues to prove the club’s stature on the pitch.
“It’s hard to say, really,” was his reply. “There is the potential to be a very big club. The training facilities are definitely a step up.
“But obviously we are in the same league and it’s very competitive in there. A lot of the teams are of a similar standard, if you like. But facilities wise it’s a good step up.”
Heffernan remains mystified about the precise circumstances in which he left Kilmarnock, where he had spent two relatively contented years. The one disagreement he had had with his old club was when chairman Michael Johnston took exception to remarks he had made in an interview. But, believing that matter had been closed, the Irishman is still unsure whether that or any other factor brought about what became a very rushed departure from Ayrshire.
“It did come out of the blue. I didn’t expect it at all. I had the rest of the season left at Kilmarnock and I hadn’t thought about leaving. I hadn’t spoke to the manager about leaving.
“I didn’t know anything about it until I spoke to my agent and he said that he had spoken to the chairman and he had said they were willing to let me go for free. That’s when he started making phone calls to Hibs and other clubs. That’s how it happened.
“[The interview] was during the summer. I came back to the club and I thought all of that had been sorted out. I just did an interview in the summer about Kenny [Shiels, the former manager] leaving and I said I thought he did a good job – which I still think he did. Nothing has changed there.
“That’s all I said in the interview and he [Johnston] wasn’t happy with it. Nothing happened, I didn’t get fined or anything like that. I just spoke to the club about it and they said they weren’t happy with the interview.
“Like I said to them, I didn’t try to say anything bad about the club: I just wanted to say Kenny did a good job. I don’t know if it had a bearing on anything. I don’t have a clue; I honestly don’t.
“It was a strange way to end. I had two great years there. But that’s what happens sometimes when a new manager comes in. Maybe he wanted to use my wages to get some other players in, I don’t know.
“I didn’t even have time to say goodbye to people. I literally went home from training on the Thursday thinking I would be back in the next day.
“Then I was told to be at Hibs on the Friday for a medical if I was interested – and of course I was. I’ve enjoyed the training, the lads have been great and I’m looking forward to some games now.”
Heffernan came off the bench for the last ten minutes of Hibs’ goalless and uninspiring draw against Ross County, and is well aware that he and his fellow-strikers will be expected to produce far more of a goal threat in the weeks and months to come. “My first challenge will be to get into the team. Once I do that I’ll bring a bit of experience and hopefully get a few goals.
“The team hasn’t been scoring a lot of goals recently, but from what I’ve seen in training we’ve got good strikers. So I’m sure once we start getting a few good results and our confidence gets up we’ll be fine.”