Former Hibs hero Marvin Bartley reckons Paul Heckingbottom’s summer signings are guilty of underestimating the standard of Scottish football.
The Easter Road head coach has come under increased scrutiny following a miserable start to the season, winning just one of their five Premiership fixtures – at home against St Mirren.
Fans made their feelings plain following recent meek away defeats against Motherwell and Kilmarnock, with a portion of the club’s vocal travelling support even calling for Heckingbottom to quit.
The Englishman’s struggles have come despite being given free rein to rebuild his squad over the close season, bringing in ten new faces and allowing nine senior players – including Bartley – to leave.
Josh Vela, Christian Doidge, Joe Newell, Tom James, Adam Jackson and Chris Maxwell all arrived from the lower leagues south of the border and have failed to set the heather alight, causing some to question Heckingbottom’s recruitment.
“It’s been a slow start, to say the least,” conceded Bartley, who is now thriving with Livingston. “The players know that and so does the manager.
“They have brought in a lot of boys from down south over the summer and got rid of some experienced players – like myself, Mark Milligan and even Jonathan Spector.
“There has been a big turnover and the boys who have come up to Scotland haven’t found their feet as quickly as they needed to.
“Playing in England, if you look at the Scottish league and listen to the things that are said about it then you think it’s going to be a walk in the park.
“They’ve had a real baptism of fire when they went to Rangers away and, after playing at Ibrox and losing 6-1, suddenly you realise this league is very competitive and there are some really good players up here.”
However, Bartley has dismissed the notion that Heckingbottom could be fighting for his job against Hearts on Sunday – just seven months on from his appointment to succeed Neil Lennon.
“Paul will be under a lot of pressure – but from himself,” continued Bartley. “I know he is a man with high standards. He is somebody who wants to win and play the right way.
“But, from the board, I don’t think he’ll be under a lot of pressure right now.
“When Neil Lennon left the club and they were looking for a new manager, they wanted a boss who ticked certain boxes for the direction they wanted to go. Paul Heckingbottom was the man they chose and after five games this season I don’t think that’s changed.”
Bartley, however, does believe it is make or break for Heckingbottom’s counterpart Craig Levein. Several hundred supporters gathered outside Tynecastle on Saturday to demand Levein’s dismissal after a 3-2 defeat against Motherwell left the capital club rock bottom of the Premiership.
And Bartley – who only lost one of his ten Edinburgh derby outings – reckons the former Scotland boss may have already agreed to walk away if his charges slump to another chastening defeat this weekend.
“Craig Levein has probably been given that game – if they were to lose against Hibs I feel like things could be in place already for him to say ‘I’ll walk away’,” Bartley added.
“I did see the fans protesting after the game against Motherwell but I think a win in the derby can change those fans. However, they are going backwards and that’s the biggest problem.
“Sometimes managers don’t get the results that the coaching or philosophy deserves, but you can see where they are trying to go.
“But with Hearts – and I do know a few Hearts fans – even when they were top of the league, some supporters weren’t happy with the style of football.
“Now they aren’t getting the results, or happy with the style of football, it’s a car-crash waiting to happen.”