Hibs' Alex Gogic opens up on hurt of Scottish Cup defeat - 'You would rather feel that pain of getting close to something special than not be there at all'
While the club was praised for their top-three finish in the league which delivered European football, and many took the positives from the consistent way the Leith side progressed and challenged in the cup competitions, there was no escaping the scorn poured on the team by others when they ultimately failed to deliver silverware.
That Hampden result against St Johnstone made for a tough close-season, according to midfielder Alex Gogic, who refuses to shy away from the hurt. But he is unable to view the whole campaign as a negative.
Avoiding the embarrassment of an early-round exit, he says there is still pride in getting so far, even if the agony of eventual defeat seems to intensify with every round negotiated.
“You would rather feel that pain of getting close to something special than not be there at all,” said Gogic.
“Last season we did very well, even in the league, finishing third, but there is a bit of soreness that we didn’t get a trophy even though we did so well.
“We were in the semi-final and the final and for us it is a big focus to try to go all the way and try to win a trophy this year.”
Coming in the final game of the season, the disappointment of the Scottish Cup final loss was not easy to shake off.
“It made it a very long summer and it did take a while for me, personally, for the pain to go away,” reveals the 27-year-old. “Sometimes when you have a game in two days, that is the best thing because it gives you the chance to do better. Like now, after losing that game in Rijeka, we have a game straight away and we can focus on that game against Kilmarnock. It is good because you don’t have time to sit and think. But after the final it felt like a very long summer. It was painful.”
What Hibs hope will become a journey to redemption begins today as they face up to Kilmarnock in the first knockout round of the Premier Sports Cup. The fact they do so just a few days after their exit from Europe allows them to demonstrate a resilience that the Cypriot international believes has been hewn from the cup experiences of last season.
“Oh yeah, 100 per cent we learned lessons,” continued Gogic. “I think you saw that when we were in the semis but then we got to the final and we got to experience that. But we didn't win the trophy and we realise now that it is one game and you have to die on the pitch. Sometimes it still doesn't happen for you but we have to do our best.
“There is always room for improvement no matter how good you were last year. The staff have already told us what we can improve and we are all working on it.
“Last season it took us until towards the end of the season to come back in a game and win for the first time. For some reason it was something that was on our mind but it is good that this season we have shown we can do it straight away, in the first game.”
A familiar squad with only a few departures and arrivals, Gogic says they have set standards to live up to.
“The league doesn’t lie. I think when a team does finish that high then they are always a target,” he said. “People know who you are and how good you are.
“We have earned the right to be taken seriously as a good team in the cups but if we want to get to more finals then we have to earn that right on the pitch. Just because we were good last season, that doesn’t mean that we can just turn up and win games. Every game is so competitive, no matter what team you play against. We just have to do the same as we did last season and then try to win the final.
“I think this club likes cup competitions. Winning the Scottish Cup final [in 2016], they have experienced the feeling and maybe that makes them want to do it again. When you enter the club, you hear people talking about it, you get that feeling that you want to be part of that too.
“Maybe that is the reason we didn’t win it last time, we were waiting for this season so we could do it with the fans!
“The fans play a big role for every player. Sometimes they inspire you and sometimes it isn’t the best moments but that can still help you. If you take it on the chin it can help to motivate you.”
There will be difficulties to overcome, though, as the club work to bring in new signings to bolster a squad troubled by injuries to captain Paul Hanlon and influential striker Christian Doidge in the past week or so. The latter looks to be long-term but the centre-half should be back in the pack for next weekend’s trip to Dundee.
In the meantime Darren McGregor, whose sending off in Croatia proved so costly, is expected to fill the void.
“We know he will be feeling bad at the moment, any player does when they make a mistake,” added Gogic. “It is painful, it hurts and it is not nice but at the end of the day it is a team sport and in football you win as a team and lose together and he knows that. We have already talked to him and told him to forget it, it happens, it’s football.”
Disappointment will always be part of the game when cup competitions and European adventures dictate that there must be winners and losers.
But even in defeat, positives can be mined and Hibs are determined to show they are still chipping away.
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