HIBERNIAN defender Liam Fontaine admits he is grateful the Leith club are not undergoing a summer overhaul like Rangers.
Head coach Alan Stubbs had little time to build a squad last year after replacing Terry Butcher and Fontaine, who was signed from Bristol City, believes that was a significant factor in their slow start to the Championship campaign.
Hibs struggled to get within striking distance of Hearts last season as their city rivals cantered to the league title, and finished the campaign 21 points behind the champions.
This season’s push for first place is expected to be a two-horse race between Hibs and Rangers and Fontaine hopes the Easter Road outfit are better prepared for a title push.
Fontaine, who yesterday helped to launch Hibs’ new purple away strip, said: “You could argue that the slow start cost us the chance to challenge last season. Once we did get going our form was pretty consistent and we sustained it through the year. The start cost us the challenge but we did put some performances out there.
“It’s not an easy thing to do, rebuild a squad. You can put any group of players together but a team has to bond. It does have to gel and you need to know each other inside-out. That’s vital in my opinion. Hopefully we can hit the ground running as a result.
“We’ve got the core of a good squad, we’ve got a couple who are injured and I think we’re in pretty good shape.
“There’s talk of another couple of midfielders coming in so the gaffer knows what he wants. From the evidence of who he has brought in in the past, he’s pretty good on that front.”
After finishing second in the Championship, Hibs were defeated at the play-off stage following a semi-final defeat by Rangers. Fontaine hopes they can clinch the solitary automatic promotion place this term by becoming more ruthless on the pitch.
He added: “We didn’t win the play-offs, which was obviously disappointing. But you use that and hopefully we can learn from it.
“We need to be consistent and see games out a bit better. There were games we dominated and didn’t get the result. I think that’s the one thing we need to change this year.”
Forwards James Keatings and Danny Carmichael are among the new faces at Hibs and Fontaine is relieved the pair are his team-mates this season after facing them as Hearts and Queen of the South players respectively last term.
He added: “They were the stick-out players for the teams we played against.
“Dan last year at Queen of the South was one of their best players on the ball and he can create things.
“Then you’ve got Keatings as well, I’ve trained against him for the last couple of weeks and let’s just say he’s very useful.
“He’s just a goalscorer, he’s so sharp in and about the box and I think he’ll add something to our team that we didn’t have last year.”