After nearly nine months at the wheel, Hibs have stalled under Paul Heckingbottom and the man himself has paid the price, with poor form under the Englishman driving them off course.
Heckingbottom has been dismissed by the Leith club after a 5-2 League Cup semi-final defeat to Celtic. He leaves Hibs tenth in the table following just one win in 11 Premiership games.
It all started so positively for the 42-year-old. He went unbeaten in his first ten league games, with the only real blip a Scottish Cup defeat to Celtic. A first win over Hearts at Tynecastle in six years was secured and he’d lead the club from eighth to fifth in a matter of months.
The split during the 2018/19 season though signalled the end of Heckingbottom’s honeymoon period.
Heckingbottom never recovered from Hibs split
Hibs didn’t win a game after the split last season. At the time he got away with it due to their impressive form to even get them a top six berth, but dents in the armour were beginning to show.
2018/19 was challenging for Hibs and Heckingbottom took the decision to revamp his squad completely. 17 left Leith and a further ten came in through the Easter Road doors during the summer.
Signings have failed to impress a large portion of fans though. The real shining light from their summer intake was Scott Allan and he was already signed on a pre-contract before Heckingbottom’s arrival.
Other decisions like not replacing Marvin Bartley and Mark Milligan have been questioned, whilst a lack of depth in the wingers department has lead to the likes of Allan and Stevie Mallan deputising there.
Heckingbottom’s summer business was very much his and the people he brought in were players he liked. Sadly for him, many of them just haven’t clicked in the SPFL.
With no league wins since August too, getting a string of good performances out of players has been an issue. It’s hard to pinpoint one Hibee who has been performing regularly this term.
Previous regulars like Ofir Marciano and Florian Kamberi dropping to the bench has left some fans scratching their heads as to why they’ve been dropped after not doing much wrong.
A regrettable end
Prior to the split, nobody could’ve seen this outcome. Heckingbottom had Hibs flying on the managerial bounce but that unfortunately was not carried on into this term.
It’s been the polar opposite. Their first competitive game, a 1-1 draw against League Two Stirling Albion in the League Cup, had some supporters fearing the worst and those nightmares have been realised.
Heckingbottom stuck to his principles and really believed he could turn things around. The Hibs board seemingly don’t think there’s enough evidence to suggest a European push is likely.
Some fans had completely turned against him and he could only last so long with that in the background. The amount of abuse he was being subjected to was growing week by week.
Hibs are tenth in the table and a point off the bottom. Whilst it seemed like a distant reality in the spring, Hibs really need to avoid a 2013/14 repeat of Premiership relegation.
That is simply unthinkable and Hibs are now looking for a new manager to take them away from that frightening prospect.