NOSTALGIC for Christmases past, Scott Robertson says Hibs can only dream of the relative highs of 12 months ago.
Back then the accelerated fall from grace could hardly have been imagined and no one inside the club was seriously contemplating a new year so bedevilled by disappointment, relegation and off-field unrest.
“Hibs were still in the top six [of the Premier League] this time last season,” remembers the midfielder. “We were still in the Scottish Cup and chasing silverware but it was an incredibly steep decline. I don’t think I will ever experience anything like that again in football – I hope not.”
The goodwill which circulated around Easter Road at that time – during which Hibs took ten points from 12 over the festive period under Terry Butcher, including victory in the New Year derby – was short-lived as a still scarcely credible fall from grace ensued.
“Last Christmas we were unbeaten in five or six games and that turned out to be our best period of the season,” said Robertson. “But we won just one more game, when we beat Ross County, and that is just amazing. There were games that we should have won like Motherwell at home when we were 3-2 up with a minute to go and drew 3-3 and if we had won one more game during that bad run it could have made all the difference to us in the long run.”
Instead, they missed out on top six, and as the freefall continued they ended the Premier League season second bottom and losing to Hamilton in the play-off despite digging out what appeared to be a decisive 2-0 win in the first leg.
“There is nothing else to say about it other than the fact that it was miraculous how Hibs were relegated. But 2014 is almost done and we will see what 2015 brings. We want to forget about the events of last season and hopefully this year will be better for Hibs.”
To give themselves a platform to build from they need to deliver the kind of consistency in results that adds credence to their claim that things are improving.
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The harsh reality is that despite a run of games which includes just one defeat in ten, they have yet to secure back-to-back wins in the Championship, while an unsettled start to the season has left them trailing not only league leaders Hearts but Rangers and Queen of the South.
“That’s a scary fact and it is a startling statistic,” says Robertson of the side’s inability to string two league wins together. “There have been too many draws and losses that have allowed other teams to pull away.”
If they have hopes of chopping into the points differential, the next few games, against Raith Rovers, then Rangers and Hearts, will be crucial.
“We have got to get the points on the board against Raith first and foremost. Raith drew with us at home and in the end we were hanging on to a point when we could have won the game by half-time so we know it won’t be easy.
“But the way the table looks now could be totally different to how it will appear in a month’s time. It is up to us to affect that in those games. We are not even thinking about playing Rangers later on in December. What we are trying to achieve makes every game a must win game. We have dropped too many points and that is not down to refereeing decisions or players cheating or whatever. We just haven’t been ruthless enough this season so far.
“The manager has instilled a different mindset but it is not always about playing pretty football as sometimes you have to grind out those wins that are not attractive or pleasing on the eye. If we can do that then we can catch Queen of the South. They are directly above us so that is what we are thinking about, nobody else above them.”
The absence of wriggle room thanks to that stuttering start means that tensions are already high – with some fans verbalising that tension as the team concentrated on keeping possession while trying to find a way through a stubborn Alloa side last weekend.
“I heard it a bit when we were trying to keep a hold of the ball. I heard a bit of unrest and it is up to the fans to complain and cheer and say what they want,” said Robertson. “But I am sure there are some supporters who would question why others were moaning when we are winning the game and keeping hold of the ball. They are not as loud as the ones who were unhappy but at the end of the day we won 2-0 so they went home happy.
“The mentality is to be calm and not panic especially the way the manager wants us to play. He admits that players will make mistakes but it is how you react to them. He wants us to be big enough and brave enough to step up to the plate and play football.
“The manager has brought that brand – the Hibs way – to the club although it will not always work out. The performances and results have not always married together but there is a style and a philosophy there and there is progress and improvement.”
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