Honest Ron Gordon assesses Hibs' European run, makes Celtic and Rangers admission

Scottish clubs need to make a better fist of progressing beyond the qualifying stages of European competition, with Hibs chairman Ron Gordon irked that Celtic and Rangers are, again, the only ones still flying the flag.

Hibs were the first of this season’s five-strong Scottish contingent to slip up, exiting the European arena at the Conference League third qualifying stage. Aberdeen and St Johnstone lasted one more round, but were ousted after losing their play-offs.

It means that the big two Glasgow sides are, once again, the only Scottish representatives in the Europa League and Gordon is determined to not only see his Leith club book a quick return to the European level of competition but to learn lessons from this season’s premature exit in a bid to prolong their involvement next time.

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“I enjoyed [being in Europe] a lot. I think it was exciting,” said the Peruvian-born entrepreneur. “But I’m disappointed that we had five teams in Europe and it’s the same two, and it is great to still see them there, who are the ones left.

Hibs' Jake Doyle-Hayes (L) and Martin Boyle were dejected figures as the Easter Road side's European ambitions were shredded by Rijeka, in Croatia. Photo by Nikola Krstic / SNS Group

“We need to have Hibs, Aberdeen, St Johnstone, whoever it is, they need to stay in Europe. We need to get further in Europe.”

For that, they must learn from experience, with Gordon already discussing necessities for a fresh assault.

“That was a little bit of a bummer to be honest with you,” he said of the team’s self-inflicted wounds. “We, maybe, let the Rijeka game get away from us. That could have been different and then we played with ten men over there. That was a tough one.”

While manager Jack Ross has always made it clear he favours quality over quantity when it comes to assembling a squad, Gordon feels that squad limitations cost them in Croatia. So, when it comes to Europe, a slight reappraisal of the game plan is required.

“I’ve had conversations with Jack about what happens if we make Europe. We’ve a finite number of slots we have allocated for the first team but in Europe perhaps we need two or three more because there is going to be more games and more demand – it’s Thursday, weekend, Thursday weekend. There are a lot of games and the recovery time is less, players get tired and injuries happen. We need to learn how to be in Europe.

“Hopefully we’ll do well this season and we’ll be back in Europe and can prepare a little bit better. My hope is that Hibs get into the group stage or other teams can do it and drive the league and the game forward. It’s good for everyone, we get more money, it’s self-fulfilling and you get more resources.”

While progress in Europe accounts for financial growth, it is the boost to the club's reputation and that of the Scottish game that excites Gordon further.

“I want players to want to come here, no matter where they are from, but I certainly want Scottish players to want to come here. I want players to say: ‘You know what? Scotland’s a great league to play in’.

“If we can do all that more money is eventually going to show up in the product, and the product is going to be more competitive and that will help us go further in Europe!”

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