Easter Road doubled as a sanctuary for Hibernian’s wind-buffeted players yesterday after their East Mains training ground suffered a power cut. Manager Terry Butcher now hopes the stadium can provide more than just shelter from the storm in the shape of three points against Partick Thistle tomorrow.
Butcher was staggered to learn yesterday that Hibs have won only two league games at their home in this calendar year. They have only three more opportunities to begin improving that long, sorry record, starting tomorrow against Thistle.
Alan Archibald’s side have not won at all at home in the league this season, which further underlines the curious phenomenon of teams who are inhibited rather than inspired by playing in front of their own fans.
Butcher referred to it as a “hang-up” yesterday, and recalled how Inverness Caledonian Thistle, his former club, had been afflicted by a similar problem when he took over in 2009.
“It is easier sometimes to play away from home,” Butcher acknowledged. However, he added that he won’t accept any excuses for failure to perform at home – particularly since Hibs have managed to secure a win and a draw from their first two games under him while on the road.
Butcher knows he has to begin addressing this problem immediately. Managers tend not to last long if they cannot win more than two league matches at home per year.
Appointed more than three weeks ago, Butcher will take a long-awaited bow in front of the home supporters tomorrow. Although he stresses that it is not about him, he would prefer that the occasion is not tarnished by another Easter Road let down. It is why the players will be training at the stadium today after a truncated session yesterday. Understandably, East Mains was not looking quite so state-of-the-art yesterday following a morning of gale-force winds.
“All the goals had been blown down the hill, and they’re heavy goals as well, not lightweight things with wheels on,” reported Butcher. “The boys went into the barn and did some passing and stuff like that, which was quite good. But they couldn’t have a shower or anything because the dressing rooms were all dark.”
Butcher had already been considering switching training to Easter Road this week as he bids to remind the players of the special qualities of the stadium. “Being here raises excitement levels for Saturday but I was toying with the idea of coming here anyway, irrespective of the weather,” he said.
“The players haven’t been back out onto the pitch since the Caley Thistle game [which they lost 2-0] and sometimes you need to get out there again quickly. It’s like falling off a bike – they say you should get back on again as quickly as possible. Having won only two home games in 2013, you think ‘let’s try everything we possibly can to get rid of that statistic’.
“I can’t affect what’s happened in the past,” he added. “That record won’t change. But we want to make it three on Saturday by playing as well as, if not better than, the way we’ve played in the first two games.
“It’s just eleven men against eleven men, green pitch, white lines, two goals. It doesn’t matter what’s around the outside. The fans can make it really noisy, which is what we want. But the players are the ones that are going to go out there and play and win. It’s important that they’re the confident ones and they’re in the right frame of mind to go out and do just that.
“We want this to be a hostile place to come to for the opposition, and to do that we’ve got to give our fans something to get behind,” he added. “I’ve talked about the players enjoying playing here and enjoying playing for Hibs. Enjoy the challenge but don’t be afraid to get out there and be positive.”
Butcher was delighted to assess the worth of centre-half Jordon Forster yesterday, following confirmation that the 20-year-old defender has signed a contract extension until 2016, a deal which was agreed during Pat Fenlon’s time as manager. Butcher says Forster reminds him of himself as a young centre-half breaking through at Ipswich Town.
“He’s a good player, I like him,” said Butcher. “He’s got a lot of good, solid attributes. He’s strong, good in the air, good on the ball, likes a tackle. The only difference between me and him is he’s got a better right foot than me. I see a lot of myself in Jordon. He’s still raw in many ways but exciting – exciting to watch and exciting to coach.
‘The deal was already done when I arrived,” he added. “It was like: ‘Oh, by the way, we’ve signed him…’ Good job I liked him, then! He has crammed a lot into his ten first-team games, including a cup final. But two matches for me and two clean sheets – that’s the most important stat.
“He’s shown he has a good attitude and temperament, so that will bode well for the future. He’s willing to learn and there’s a rawness that is exciting, especially in training, because he doesn’t hold back, he gets wired right in. A youngster like that is good for the side.”