Despite winning the title in a procession-like manner, 2016-17 felt quite a dull affair compared to the last two down Easter Road way. Neil Lennon’s main job was to get Hibs promoted and he achieved that, albeit without the flair of his predecessor. This team gave away little at the back, but could often frustrate in the final third. How good this team and its manager is hard to assess, but here’s my best shot…
Ofir Marciano – 8
Hibs had one hell of a stingy defence this season, partially aided by Israeli international Marciano, who frankly is too good to be playing at Championship level. Capable of making some tremendous saves (second half at home to Dunfermline a case in point), the only downside to Rocky’s season was a work permit delay and injuries. Hibs should be pulling out all the stops to take him from Ashdod.
Ross Laidlaw – 6
Expectations were low for Laidlaw, who joined us with a less than stellar reputation from Raith Rovers. Perhaps because the barrier for success was so low, Laidlaw easily exceeded them with a number of good performances (notably in Denmark on his debut) and his time deputising for an injured Marciano at the turn of the year.
Otso Virtanen – 1
17 seconds. Hibs’ season was 17 second long when the young Norwegian, to use a technical term, “fucked it” against Brondby. A David Grof for the Snapchat generation, Virtnanen never started another game for Hibs.
Efe Ambrose – 7
What happens when you’re Neil Lennon and are in charge of one of the UK’s stingiest defences? Sign a former World Cup star for…reasons. Admittedly, Hibs were looking short of centre halves but Ambrose did feel like a cherry on top the cherriest cherry cake that ever existed. Will return for next season which is good news, but means Hibs will be stacked at centre-half.
Liam Fontaine – 6
Only 15 league appearances for Fonts, who has recently signed a one-year extension. Steady, but unspectacular, Fontaine is an organiser and elegant player at Championship level. Could find playing time limited next season. Clearly a big fan of the club judging by his self-penned song about the Hibs. Truly a song that only a devout Hibee could love.
Jordan Forster – 5
This only thing that’s worse than having no luck is bad luck and Jordan Forster is proof of that. Just as Hibs were going through an injury crisis in defence, an opportunity arose for Forster after his return from Plymouth. Sadly, it wasn’t to be as he too limped off injured. Could still be a squad player at Easter Road but it feels like his race might be run and a change of club would benefit his development.
David Gray – 7
Another solid season for Sir David Gray, who by virtue of what happened last May will never be criticised by a large section of our support. Gray managed to stay largely injury free which was an improvement on his first two years. Hibs were not often tested this season down the wings, so questions will remain about how well Gray will perform in the top division.
Paul Hanlon – 7
Hanlon suffered a pelvis injury that kept him out for a few months but, again, he was another defender who’s capabilities weren’t tested too often this season. His physicality has improved in the three years we’ve been in the Championship as has his passing, so could be an ideal partner for Ambrose at the heart of defence next term.
Darren McGregor – 8
A colossus at the back, it was unfortunate that McGregor’s only errors came in big televised matches (his wild slide tackle vs Dundee United and the slack pass in the opening seconds of the semi final). McGregor is strong, reads the game exceptionally well and is good in the air at both ends.
Lewis Stevenson – 7
Far less adventurous than under Alan Stubbs, Stevenson continues to be a stalwart in his testimonial season. He’ll always do exactly what’s asked of him. His solidity is part of the reason Hibs were so miserly at the back.
Marvin Bartley – 8
In his sophomoric year at Easter Road, Marvin Bartley got more of a chance to show his value to the team with a series of battling midfield performances. Unsuited to a team having a lot of the ball, Bartley will be given time to prove his full worth next season in the Premiership.
Martin Boyle – 6
Once described by fellow Terrace-ist Graeme Thewliss as the “single biggest argument against expanding the top division” Boyle has seen an upturn in form under Lennon, now finding a level at ‘relatively frustrating’ as opposed to ‘Mr Inconsistency’. Boyle is only 24 which suggests that he had a paper round in San Salvador. Next season will be make or break for the Squirrel.
Kris Commons – 7
What was that all about? A hugely talented footballer that was clearly far too good for regularly playing in the Championship, it took Commons a half of his emergency loan to settle in. A crucial goal at Cappielow kept the title tilt ticking over but he was gone almost as soon as he’d arrived. Big shout out to Mrs Commons for making Leith sound like it was the other side of the globe in her messages to the ‘Celtic family’.
Fraser Fyvie – 7
Winston Churchill once said that Russia was “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”. Scottish football fans could say the same about Fraser Fyvie. When Fyvie has been good for Hibs, he’s been excellent, when he’s been bad he’s been anonymous. He’s on his way out of Easter Road but I’m adamant that if a Premiership club wanted to build a midfield around him he could be a tremendous asset.
Chris Humphrey – 5
A stormer of a start against Dundee United followed by an injury saw Humphrey make a minimal impact at Hibs. He returned to the team after the title was secured. Added much needed pace to the midfield at just the right point in the season.
Dylan McGeouch – 6
The 60th minute of the semi-final clash with Aberdeen summed up Dylan McGeouch’s time at Hibs. Great play leading to a goal that also resulted in the versatile midfielder injuring himself in the process. When he’s injury free, McGeouch plays like he’s got a forcefield around him. Sadly he breaks down far too often but if he didn’t then there’s little chance he would have been at Hibs in the first place. Next season will be make-or-break for him.
John McGinn – 7
Save a few performances here and there, McGinn really didn’t do enough this season to justify his international call-ups and Player of the Season awards. On his day, as he demonstrated in the replay against Hearts, McGinn is unplayable. He’s got an awkward gait (“a running style like he’s just been dropped off by a helicopter” – Robert Borthwick ©) and use of his body is exceptional. However, too often this season he appeared to be coasting. A rumour of a rift with Neil Lennon is in nobody’s interest, which will hopefully be resolved pronto.
Andrew Shinnie – 7
Clearly a very talented player, Shinnie never seemed to thrive as much as he threatened to during the season. This was partially due to the chopping and changing in the midfield, as well as where he played positionally. Given the opportunity to play behind the strikers, Shinnie would be an asset to any Premiership club.
Jason Cummings – 8
The Cumdog eh? A goal every two games in the Championship and yet questions remain about Cummings. An opportunistic striker, when he’s on form he’s good. When he’s off-form he’s absolutely stinking. This made Lennon’s decision to bench Cummings in the winter sensible, if not popular with large swathes of the Easter Road faithful who believe he can do no wrong. If Cummings is away this summer for any sum in excess of £750k it will be remarkable for a striker who still hasn’t proven himself in Scotland’s top league.
Brian Graham – 6
A player who should have thrived in the Championship, Graham was once again a victim of not being able to form a reliable partnership upfront with anyone. He was a frustrating presence who really should have done better. 28 appearances but only eight from the start tells its own story.
Grant Holt – 8
Holt had his detractors, but much like Dominique Malonga before him, his role in the team was hugely underappreciated. Holt struggled with fitness at the start of the season and then was the victim of strange tactics (expecting a 35-year-old to run onto through balls?), it wasn’t until the second half of the season that Holt’s full potential was untapped. A super goal in the derby was followed by some great link-up play which allowed Cummings to shine. A proper nuisance to defenders, it would have been interesting to see how he fared against Premiership sides every week.
James Keatings – 7
Congratulations to Dundee United, who have assured themselves the title next season by virtue of signing James Keatings. His reasoning for joining United Is entirely rationale: he wants to play though the middle, something that will unlikely be afforded to him at Easter Road. Capable of some great performances this season (his last minute winner against Falkirk was probably the most critical goal of the season) and a good set piece taker, Keatings should thrive with another season in the Championship.
Written by Duncan McKay