Hibs boss thrilled with hectic programme

JOHN HUGHES today defended a punishing pre-season programme which will see Hibs play 16 matches in less than a month, insisting: "It's exactly what we need."

The Easter Road squad start preparing for the new season tomorrow and will have their first public outing against Dunfermline just ten days later.

But before the journey to East End Park a week on Saturday, Hughes' players will be in action in two closed-doors matches against Morton and Dundee.

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The trip across the Forth will be followed by a visit to Dumfries to play Queen of the South before embarking on a ten-day tour of Holland during which they will square up to four Eredvisie outfits. Hughes will discover the identity of Hibs' Europa League opponents while in Holland, with the first leg of their third qualifying round tie taking place five days after their return to Edinburgh.

Hibs will then travel to face Carlisle United before playing the second leg of their European tie. They will return south again to meet Blackpool. Fixtures against Duns, Selkirk and Vale of Leithen have also been scheduled while the club's Under-19 side will play Craigroyston.

Hughes acknowledged it's a tough programme but one which is necessary with Hibs in competitive action almost three weeks before the new Scottish Premier League season gets underway.

He said: "I'm delighted with our schedule and credit to those behind the scenes who have worked very hard to put it together.

"Clearly, every player isn't going to play every minute of every one of those games but they will all need match time to help get them up to speed and we have the fixtures in place to do that.

"These matches won't just be used for fitness, they are an opportunity to use different formations, tactics and so on and when we come towards the end of it you look at what has worked and what hasn't.

"They could also give us the chance to have a look at one or two trialists in match situations."