Hibernian

Hibernian: Respect for Clarke must stop at the end of the tunnel

Hibernian: Respect for Clarke must stop at the end of the tunnel

Paul Heckingbottom has taken to Scottish football like a duck to water, overseeing a six-game unbeaten league run since becoming Hibs boss, and has only tasted defeat in a Scottish Cup tie against Celtic.

Taking 15 points from a possible 18, has quietly turned the Easter Road side from top half hopefuls to having an outside chance of snatching a Europa League spot.

It is an unlikely scenario for the Edinburgh side, but that it is possible at all, is a sign that the new manager has things moving in the right direction.

They take on Kilmarnock later, and a win, and helpful results elsewhere, possibly seeing them within three points of third.

It is clear that Heckingbottom has a lot of respect for his opposite number, Steve Clarke, but that has to be put aside as soon as they emerge from the tunnel.

Speaking to the Daily Record ahead of the game, the Hibs boss said: “I’ve come up against him in games and crossed paths with him on coaching courses.

“Steve is experienced and the level of players and clubs he has worked with is another reason why you’re not surprised where they are.

“He’s someone who has made it really clear what can be achieved in this league.

“Watching him and his team over a few weeks I can see why they’ve done it. There’s a lot of experience and Steve has them playing in a way where they’re all working for each other too.

“He has made good signings, he has a good squad of players. He’s a good manager with good coaches who set the team up in a way which suits them.”

But tomorrow night is not about Kilmarnock, or Steve Clarke. It is about Hibernian performing as they have done since Heckingbottom arrived, and maintaining their fine run.

When a manager arrives at a club after Christmas, it is always about consolidating and achieving small targets that you set throughout the remainder of the season, and get a gauge of what you need to do to improve things next season.

The response Heckingbottom has had from his players will give him plenty of heart ahead of the summer recruitment drive, and he is hoping that his players will continue to be tested in the last few games.

Three points against Killie tomorrow will be uppermost in his mings, with the Edinburgh derby arriving hot on its heels. And tough games are exactly what the manager is hoping for.

“If it goes how we want it to go, the games should just get tougher,” he told Edinburgh Live.

“In the short term, we wanted to get to the top six. That does look achievable now. That’s through the hard work of the players and the results we’ve got.

“But, if we get there, it gets even harder – because all we’re doing then is playing teams above us. And that’s what we want.”

It promises to be a big few days for Hibs, and if they can secure two wins from the two games, who knows where they will be sitting when the division splits?

What do you think of the job Paul Heckingbottom has done since his arrival, Hibs fans? Can you make it back into Europe? Let us know…

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