'I can't accept this' - but why there is no panic at Hibs right now

Nine points adrift of third place in the cinch Premiership and just six clear of bottom spot, there is no disguising the precariousness of Hibs’ situation at the moment.

Jack Ross will be hoping to avoid six league defeats in a row when his Hibs team take on St Johnstone today.
Jack Ross will be hoping to avoid six league defeats in a row when his Hibs team take on St Johnstone today.

Heading up to Perth this afternoon hoping to stop the rot and cap their recent run of defeats in the Premiership at five, there is a clear understanding of the situation they are in. But, within the dressing room, there is no panic.

With two games in hand on most of the teams around them and a jam-packed schedule, there is scope to hoist themselves into the top six and beyond fairly swiftly but only if they can turn those fixtures into points. Which has, obviously, been the issue.

Their last league win came against today’s opponents, St Johnstone, back in September and, in isolation, five successive league losses would seem like relegation form.

Hibs lost to Ross County on Wednesday night.

Watching those disappointments stack up, the Leith gaffer has made it clear that he is far from happy with some of the performances and vexed by the results, but he has seen enough in training and in recent outings to dissipate concerns. But, words, he knows, are cheap.

“I can’t accept this,” said the man who swiftly raised Hibs from the malaise he inherited two years ago and guided them to the apex, delivering prolonged cup runs and European football.

He spoke openly of standards and percentage gains as they finished third last term, never slipping below fourth throughout the entire campaign.

But despite big intentions and a start to the season that validated their ambitions, they are struggling for a foothold. And, punters who were spoiled last term are voicing their disquiet.

Hibs defeated Rangers last weekend but will be without Martin Boyle this weekend.

They aren’t the only ones, though, with Ross ripping into his players in the wake of sub-standard showings against the likes of Dundee United, which greased their slide down the Premiership standings.

“These results are not good enough for us as a club. And, people shouldn't underestimate how much it bothers me. I don't like losing matches. We have put a lot of work into being the best version of ourselves and while we don't always manage it, we do work incredibly hard to push ourselves constantly.

“Internally we need to make sure we maintain that clear-headedness and trust in what we do. Trust is a big part of it and when we have stuck to that, over the past couple of years, by and large we have done okay. So, it is not the time for us to move away from that. Instead, it is a time for everybody to maintain that faith in how we work.”

The hardest spell of his tenure, dealing with off-field problems, sickness, injury and suspension, as well as untimely form dips, there remains an unflinching belief in himself and his players. There is also faith in the club’s ability to bring in the right reinforcements in the transfer window, with Chris Mueller arriving in the UK on Wednesday to train and ensure he is ready to hit the ground running at the start of 2022, ideally, in the January capital derby.

For those already involved, their task is in building some positive momentum and bolstering the points column long before then.

“Results-wise, obviously, it is the toughest spell,” said Ross. “But it is strange because it has not really felt like that. Because in the midst of it there have been some good performances and plus working with the players every day I don't feel like we are a team that is on that kind of run. But that shouldn't be taken to mean that I am oblivious of where we are because I am fully aware and I carry that with me every day and I am working to rectify it.

“But, it has certainly felt different. Even here, when I first came in, I felt things were a lot flatter. Now, I genuinely do feel that the players are still in a good place but we need to show that in the results.

“I think when we look at Wednesday, it’s not like we feel we played poorly in the loss to bottom-placed Ross County] but there was a lot of frustration that manifested itself a little bit at the end of the game.

“The players are desperate to get back to winning ways and [the Premiers Sports Cup semi-final win against Rangers] on Sunday was a big fillip in that regard and it reminded them that they are a good team.

“There is usually an honesty in their appraisal and earlier in this run there was a flatness because they knew they had been poor. Recently, they know they are doing a lot of things right but there is frustration that they are not turning that into points.”

They will now attempt to turn things around without the talismanic Martin Boyle and influential Christian Doidge, both of who are suspended – the latter also out of the midweek head-to-head with Rangers.

“I have always said that we need to have lofty ambitions here and I want to challenge my staff and players,” said Ross. “I probably haven't always helped myself in that regard by being so open about them but, equally, I wouldn't shy away from them.

“These results are not acceptable for us as a club. The work we are doing and the effort the players have given is not a worry for me but the results are because we need to rectify them as quickly as possible.

“The start to the season means that we are still in a position where we can look up the way but, we all know that we have to start winning games as quickly as possible.”

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