The turnaround at Easter Road in the wake of former manager Neil Lennon’s departure from Hibs has been astonishing. Paul Heckingbottom has took over the reigns and now the Hibees are firing on all cylinders.
They haven’t lost in the league under the former Leeds United boss and their only defeat came to Celtic in the Scottish Cup. The men from Leith hit an important landmark with victory over Livingston on Friday night, a new high for Heckingbottom.
For the first time this season Hibs leapfrogged city rivals Hearts. Sure they only stayed above them for 18 hours following the Jambos’ 2-1 win over Aberdeen, but this was still a fine achievement for Heckingbottom’s men.
The Hibees have trailed behind the men from Gorgie all season. It didn’t seem possible that the two would be so close together. With a vital Edinburgh derby looming, it gives Hibs the chance to get above the Jambos once again, and stay there for more than a day.
Despite being beneath them just now, the fact Hibs managed to get above Hearts is a testament to the great work their new manager has done in his time at Easter Road so far.
Europe isn’t off the table
After a 1-0 defeat to Motherwell in January, Hibs were in eighth, with unrest growing within the camp. Two wins in 14 was not good enough. Yes Lennon had injuries to deal with but that sort of form for a club like the Easter Road side is inexcusable.
Lennon was gone after defeat at Fir Park and a period of uncertainty clouded over Easter Road. They made it through the night and now Hibs are enjoying brighter days under new boss Heckingbottom.
He’s unified the squad, making sure everyone has a part to play in every Hibs victory. The Hibees boss has implemented some much needed consistency to the squad. Just four changes to the starting XI have been made under his rule.
Heckingbottom has managed to get the best out of players, most notably Florian Kamberi. His decision to move the Swiss forward out wide has paid dividends, with his performances and end product a massive contrast to earlier this season when he was misfiring.
This stability and new found confidence has shot Hibs up the league. They now find themselves needing only a point to secure a top six place on Wednesday night. Considering they were 11 points behind Hearts and five points off the top six in February, that is some achievement.
They sit in sixth with the Jambos in their sights. Not only the men from Gorgie, but third place Kilmarnock and fourth place Aberdeen too. They are just four points off the Dons and six behind Killie. Considering the strides they have made under Heckingbottom so far, they are well in the running for a European spot.
The difference the new Hibees manager has made is remarkable. If he manages to get points against the men from Ayrshire on Wednesday and wins the Edinburgh derby, Hibs will be in a great position to secure a venture into Europe next season.