After 3 seasons out of the top-flight, Hibs eventually managed to gain promotion last term. Neil Lennon, over the summer, has saw a massive turnover in players, with I suspect more still to come. Here is my review of the summer so far and a look ahead to this coming campaign.
The list of departures is into double figures, with Neil Lennon looking to re-shape his squad to allow his side to compete in the Premiership this term. The biggest loss is of course, Jason Cummings, with the striker joining Nottingham Forest. With experienced front-man Grant Holt also departing, it was going to be a hard-task for the Northern Irishman to replace the duo who were key to Hibs’ success last campaign.
The signing of Simon Murray looks to be inspired so far with the former Arbroath and Dundee United man thriving on the service he has received at Easter Road so far. Deivydas Matulevcius has also joined and despite the rather low amount of goals he seems to have scored in recent years, his physical qualities will give the Hibees that different dimension that Holt did so well in the Championship last term. With Brian Graham being told he is surplus to requirements, it seems as if another striker will be needed in Leith and with the rumours of Anthony Stokes’ imminent return, it seems as if Lennon has also identified this area for further improvement. The emergence of youngster Oliver Shaw – after his loan with Stenhousemuir last season – may also give the Edinburgh club a boost if he can continue to show his potential over the season.
With Andrew Shinnie’s loan not being extended; forward James Keatings and fellow midfielder’s Fraser Fyvie and Chris Humphrey all being released, the Hibees needed some reinforcements in to provide the players mentioned above with the cutting edge required to push Hibs on to the next level. It seems as if Lennon has added some real quality with Danny Swanson coming in from St Johnstone: the last time he moved from Perth to Edinburgh, he struggled with Hearts, however, if the former Celtic boss can get the best out of the playmaker, then Hibs can only reap the rewards. Vykintas Slivka has also been drafted in, with the former Juventus man showing the ambition and intent of the Leith side. When you add this to the already retained McGinn and MxGeouch and the emergence of another youngster, Fraser Murray, then Lennon may be satisfied with his engine room. In my opinion, Martin Boyle offers the directness needed with Swanson on the other side providing the more technical side to the game; however, in my opinion, if either or both of those players were to be out then last season’s Championship side lose something. Another winger would be handy and would only boost the already strong squad at Lennon’s disposal.
I think the defence is nearly set, too. The retention of Ofir Marciano is an inspired signing with the Israel Internationalist providing a good level on Hibs’ return to the Premiership, with the highly-rated Ross Laidlaw as his understudy. The signing of Steven Whittaker is also one that boosts the experience amongst the back-line, with good competition now fighting it out for the full-back slots, with Whittaker able to play both sides, meaning he can challenge David Gray and Lewis Stevenson for their positions. Efe Ambrose may have been ridiculed while at Celtic but his signing for Hibs may not be as bad as some make out. Wth Liam Fontaine, Darren McGregor and Paul Hanlon also in contention, as well as Ryan Porteous’ break into the first-team squad, then, there will be plenty of pressure put on whoever is chosen to keep the ball out of the net by Lennon and his backroom team.
Overall, Hibs have an already strong squad but another couple of additions could push them to the next level. It may take time for the two Lithuanian’s to find their feet but the rest of the players should be able to hit the ground running. The addition of another striker and a winger would increase Hibs’ chances ten-fold of finishing as high up the league this season as possible. At this moment in time, I think the squad has a good chance of finishing in the top six and will certainly push Hearts and St Johnstone for fourth place. The extra quality spoken about could see them look further up the table to challenge Rangers and Aberdeen, which would be an extremely satisfying first season back in the top-flight for Hibs, I am sure.