Hibs midfielder Joe Newell aims to hit the ground running
One of last summer’s large influx of Hibernian signings, it did not take Joe Newell long to become appraised of the demands at Easter Road and how far short of them he and the majority of the new arrivals were falling.
Their early failings ultimately cost the man who signed them, Paul Heckingbottom, his job as fans balked at the disappointing start to the season and the board took action early enough to right the ship.
While Josh Vela and Chris Maxwell returned south, other players such as top scorer Christian Doidge, Adam Jackson and Newell all settled in, proving themselves more valuable assets than those early months might have suggested.
Now, ready to embark on a new league season, playing host to Kilmarnock this afternoon, the latter is determined to hit the ground running this term, although he admits that the absence of fans in the stands will make things more challenging.
“Since the gaffer has come in there has been a lot more positivity and we have been doing better and hopefully we can take that into this season.”
Jack Ross had to pick up the pieces of those poor results yet he still had his sights fixed on the fight for a European place when the league was curtailed. The fact they had so much ground to make up due to that stuttering start remains a source of frustration for Newell, who intends to be quicker out of the blocks this time.
“Sometimes it happens and there’s no reason for it. As a team we were not doing well and the new signings took stick because the fans wanted us to come in and hit the ground running.
“We got battered, yes. But we were not good enough so we could not really argue with it. Hecky signed all of us from down south and I don’t think really any of us started playing well so it was no surprise [to get abuse]. It’s one of those things. It has not worked out for a few of the lads who have gone back down to England but the majority of us are settled now. Did I eventually win people over? Maybe yes. Personally I knew I was playing better than I had been. I was enjoying it. I was playing regularly in my preferred position.”
Setting targets for this season, as well as cup runs he wants to qualify for Europe and he and his colleagues believe they have a squad capable of competing at the top end of the Premiership table.
“From what I have seen in pre-season and in training, I think we have a strong squad, even better than last season,” said the 27-year-old Englishman. “The new signings look very good and the young lads have come back in and trained with us and they have looked good.”
“We’ve only been able to bring in three while losing seven, soon to be eight if Flo [Kamberi] goes,” explained manager Ross. “But bringing in three who all have a good chance of starting games is pleasing.
“They have experience and knowledge of the Scottish game. Maybe last summer, there was an adjustment for some because they hadn’t played in Scotland before. Alex [Gogic] and Drey [Wright] in particular have good experience of the Scottish Premiership. With Kevin [Nisbet], it’s a step up. He still knows the Scottish game well, though, so that familiarity will help him and take away that period of settling in.”
Meanwhile, Aaron Tshibola feels like he is back home after signing for Kilmarnock for a third time.
The 25-year-old former Aston Villa midfielder has signed a one-year contract after spells in Belgium and Portugal followed two loan periods at Rugby Park.
Tshibola told the club’s website: “I’m delighted to be back at Kilmarnock, where I’ve experienced two enjoyable spells already. This place feels like home to me and I couldn’t be happier to finalise this move. I feel I’m a better player and person from my experiences abroad and I’m ready to continue my development and work hard for the team to have a great season.”
Manager Alex Dyer thinks Tshibola is a great addition. He said: “We’re delighted to have Aaron back at the club and he’s a player the supporters already know well.
“He’s a talented midfielder who I believe can really help improve our squad and it’s great to have him back around the place. The squad has taken shape really nicely, and Aaron’s another piece of the puzzle.”
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