Hibernian have seen success under Neil Lennon. They’ve won the Championship, finished fourth on their return to the Premiership and played in Europe. At times, they’ve been one of the best sides in the country. Yet, it’s notable how much of this success was based on Lennon getting the most out of players who’d been on the books prior to his arrival.
Paul Hanlon, Dylan McGeouch, Jason Cummings, Martin Boyle and John McGinn all benefited from the Northern Irishman’s approach during his time in charge.
In terms of signings though, there have been few unmitigated successes. Those who fall into that category have strengthen that talented core, but, in the main, the other positive transfers have provided only a limited fillip.
Lennon has needed to wheel and deal in the short-term and loan market, with the mixed results you’d imagine. The signings made during the Championship season always had a one-and-done feel; stop gaps it would be unfair to judge Lennon too harshly for.
If Lennon had left Hibs at the end of last season, he’d have been roundly praised for his loan signings. Without some of those players it’s unlikely they would have finished fourth, despite the permanent talent in their ranks. There was the odd dud, sure, but most contributed in a significant way.
He has been far less successful in his second season, however. Shorn of the likes of McGinn and McGeouch, Lennon has tried to fill the gaps unsuccessfully. There’s been a drop-off in talent and a sense that, even if they were capable, they’re being crammed into formations that don’t necessarily suit their skillsets.
With all that in mind, here’s the breakdown of his signings:
Ofir Marciano and Efe Ambrose
The goalkeeping position has long been a trouble position for Hibs. From Yves Ma-Kalambay to Simon Brown and Zibby Malkowski, the Easter Road support have witnessed a procession of at best underwhelming and at worst calamitous number one’s. Marciano, signed initially on loan before a penning a permanent deal in 2017 (CONFIRM), replaced Mark Oxley, a shot-stopper who hadn’t convinced many.
Although he has had some difficult moments, as well as a long spell out injured, Marciano was superb in his Championship season and assured for most of his first season in the Premiership. In that time, he’s also held off a list of other, less competent, keepers.
It was telling when Efe Ambrose left Hibs just before Christmas, that the news was greeted by sadness by supporters. Ambrose had been seen a something of a joke figure after a number of high profile gaffes while at Celtic.
While he had a few at Hibernian too, he’ll mainly be remembered for his impressive consistency. Good on the ball, he formed a solid relationship with Paul Hanlon. Hibs will miss him.
Florian Kamberi, Jamie Maclaren, Kris Commons, Brandon Barker, Scott Allan, Anthony Stokes
Kamberi and Maclaren are largely in this section for their exploits last season. After signing on loan during the January transfer window, they combined to hit 17 Premiership goals in the second half of the campaign. It seemed a real coup when Lennon managed to sign them to permanent contracts during the summer but they’ve been miserable in comparison this time around. Maclaren has one goal all season and while Kamberi started brightly, he’s faced the brunt of Lennon’s frustrations as the goals began to dry up.
Scott Allan and Brandon Barker were other loan signings during 2017/18 who contributed positively. Allan added an extra level of creativity and guile to an already talented midfield - and will return next season - while Barker was lighting quick with an end product.
Commons was an emergency loan who scored two winning goals in five games.
Despite issues surrounding his departure in December 2017, Anthony Stokes could also be judged a success on his return to Easter Road. He scored 11 goals in all competitions and his departure paved the way for the capture of Kamberi and Maclaren.
THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT
Daryl Horgan, Vykintas Slivka,Simon Murray, Grant Holt, Andrew Shinnie
Daryl Horgan has, at times, looked impressive for Hibs this season. He’s tricky and capable of flaming opposition full backs. Too often though, Lennon has deployed him out of position, or he’s displayed a frustrating knack for coming inside and clogging an already-congested area.
Is Vykintas Slivka good? He’s been at the club long enough for opinions to be formed but, despite this, he’s remained largely under the radar. Capable of giving balance to the midfield and a decent passer, he can seem lost and rarely influences games. Andrew Shinnie fell into a similar camp. A smooth operator, but rarely one that raised the pulse.
Simon Murray feels like a player given the benefit of the doubt throughout his career. Despite rarely looking convincing as a starting centre forward, he netted 17 goals in total during the 17/18 season. Admittedly, eight of those came against lower league opposition in the League Cup group stages, which perhaps tells you everything.
Grant Holt came for the Championship season and scored only 5 league goals. He did bag one against Hearts in the Scottish Cup, so Hibs fans might give him a pass.
THE JURY’S OUT
Ryan Gauld, Stephane Omeonga, Mark Milligan
Ryan Gauld might prove to be a very good signing for Hibernian. He’s certainly a very interesting one, after years outside Scottish football. It’s too early to say whether he’ll be a success, even if the early signs are positive. The same applies to Genoa loanee Omeonga.
Milligan was brought in to provide some protection for the defence but has instead found himself deployed within that back line for much of his time at Easter Road so far. At the base of a settled midfield, the experienced Australian international might yet be a good signing.
Stevie Mallan, Thomas Agyepong
The biggest complaint about Stevie Mallan is that he’s too often anonymous in matches. Minutes can go by without seeing him, and then he’ll rifle one in from 25 yards. It was his talent for despatching long-range thrakers that initially endeared him to the Hibs support but the former St Mirren man needs to show more over the remainder of the season.
Thomas Agyepong has suffered a number of injuries which have stunted his ability to make an impact, but if he can get fit he might be able to provide something close to what Barker managed last term.
Danny Swanson, Emerson Hyndman, Chris Humphrey, Ross Laidlaw, Adam Bogdan, Cammy Bell
Danny Swanson came in on the back of a renaissance at St Johnstone, after his career had stalled at Edinburgh neighbours Hearts, but he only managed four starts in an underwhelming spell.
Emerson Hyndman was lost in the midfield morass this season as he failed to live up to expectations, before his loan ended at Christmas.
As Motherwell fans had discovered a during his time at Fir Park, Chris Humphrey is fast and often not much more. He scored once in five starts and occasionally looked dangerous on the break, but he had little impact
Laidlaw, Bell, Bogdan and Bain have all come in at one stage or other to try and claim the goalkeeping position from Marciano. Laidlaw was error prone,Bogdan is unconvincing, Bell played twice and Bain not once
THE OH MY GOD, WHY?
Steven Whittaker, Brian Graham, Neal Eardley, Brian McLean, Charalampos Mavrias, Miquel Nelom, Deivydas Matulevicius, Faycal Rherras
The realisation that Steven Whittaker is in the Hibernian starting line-up is now routinely followed by the sound of thousands of groans around Easter Road. Whittaker has had an excellent career but his legs appear to have seized up entirely and his regular deployment in midfield appears to make little sense to anyone.
Brian Graham seemed an entirely pointless signing during Lennon’s first year given the other players already in the squad and while he’s been very good in the Championship, struggled to force his way into the team.
Eardley, McLean, Mavrias, Nelom and Matulevicius are not so much ‘why?’ as ‘who?’ with less than 10 appearances between them. Faycal Rherras was, meanwhile, perhaps the most baffling of all Lennon’s signings. Did he never see him at Hearts?