Hibs reaction: Paul Heckingbottom’s ‘head spinning’ as he enjoys return to dugout

It may take a little time to recapture that early-season swagger, but right now Paul Heckingbottom will take results over performances as he seeks to steer Hibs back into the Premiership’s top six.

Time is pressing on that front, with now only seven matches remaining before the split, which will determine which half the Easter Road outfit will end the season in.

Perhaps it is too early to start making predictions as to what might, or might not happen, but the new Hibs boss could content himself with a promising start, his first match bringing a comfortable win.

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Sign up to our Football newsletter

True, more difficult opponents that Hamilton lie in wait in the coming weeks but Heckingbottom, with only two training sessions to work with his new squad, got much of what he insisted he’d be asking for. Hibs put in a fast, high energy, high pressing approach which brought early rewards in goals from Florian Kamberi and Marc McNulty.

Paul Heckingbottom enjoyed his bow at Easter Road. Pic: SNS

Unsurprisingly, the Yorkshireman also saw things he wasn’t too keen on, admitting there were “a hell of a lot of things I know will change”, but overall he confessed to being satisfied and, from a purely selfish personal point of view, described being back in the dugout for the first time since the end of last season helped make it “a good day”.

“My head is spinning now,” he said. “I’m thinking about things, I’ve already got a hold of the video, but it’s the wrong thing to do.

“It’s about building over time. I know football’s not like that, but it’s the only way we’re going to make them better, for them to get my ideas.

“So that’ll be the next thing, add some more bits for the Dundee game and that will be the approach between now and the end of the season.

“There were some big performances and some big moments from players, which is what I would expect, people putting their bodies on the line and making brave decisions.

“There were also some errors in there but they were only errors in my eyes, I haven’t even told the players yet, these are the things I am not about where I think we can get better as a team.

“But the clean sheet was big because we started the second half really well but we didn’t get the third goal, which we should have.

“And if you imagine then the momentum shift if they had got a goal.

“Having seen Hamilton with a new man in charge, they have a fight in them and I knew they would cause us problems because they put balls in the box. It was important we stood up to that.”

Given the lack of time available, revealed midfielder Mark Milligan, Heckingbottom and his assistant Robbie Stockdale had kept things simple, saying: “He didn’t try to overload us, he just tried to implement his structure in the way we wanted to play.

“He came in with a good positive attitude. We spoke a lot about the things he wants from us – positivity with the ball, being aggressive. It’s hard to maintain that for 90 minutes, but the intentions were right throughout.

“It’s been a good couple of days since he came in and it’s always nice to get a result and start well. You could see in patches what he is trying to implement with us and it’s really exciting to look forward to another week. Hopefully we’ll get an even better performance next week.”

However, having had four matches with head of academy training Eddie May and first team coach Grant Murray in charge of the team as the club’s hierarchy sought a replacement for Neil Lennon, the 33-year-old admitted it was a relief to have that uncertainty brought to an end.

He said: “There was a little bit of the unknown when Neil left, we didn’t know what was coming in. It wasn’t an unease, just a little unrest – because you don’t know what is going to happen.

“Now everything is clear, it is positive. We have a singular focus again: playing good football and getting results.”

Heckingbottom’s demands are such that he expects his front men not only to contribute the goals they are paid to score but to put in a shift defensively, in this instance Kamberi looking totally reinvigorated having found himself castigated time and again by Lennon and his assistant Garry Parker.

Not only did he get a toe to Daryl Horgan’s cross to open the scoring to claim his 11th goal of the season – the winger clearing up the confusion as to who should be credited by admitting it was his team-mate’s – the Swiss striker’s work ethic, and that of his fellow forward Marc McNulty, such they understandably ran out of steam towards the end.

Heckingbottom said: “I put big demands on the players. My centre forwards get their money because of goals but they are my first line of defence as well in how we want to press, defend and how we want to build.

“So we put big demands on them, but they’ll get a lot of credit from me if they do it like they did today.”