17 Dec 18
The Scottish Sun
ONCE upon a time, Hibs called on one Famous Five to score goals for fun.
Now, they could do with Enid Blyton’s lot to solve one of Scottish football’s most baffling mysteries.
Florian Kamberi celebrates with his team-mates after scoring for Hibs
Why can’t they ALWAYS play the way they did against Celtic?
Because when they do, when they produce goals like the ones that stunned the Hoops into submission, there really isn’t a team in the land to touch them.
Out of the traps, flowing like fine wine. Harrying, chasing, tackling like demons.
Getting it down, getting it wide, getting it into the box.
Neil Lennon on the touchline
Staying cool as ice when the crucial chances drop, burying them with a flourish. You could set this Hibs team to music.
So, how can they also go so long without Neil Lennon being able to get a tune out of them?
There’s lashings of ginger beer and ham sandwiches for the sleuth who works that one out.
Between tearing Hamilton apart 6-0 on the first weekend in October and beating the same opposition 1-0 away from home last week, Lennon’s men lost four and drew three, failing to score four times.
Never mind flowing like wine, in that dismal spell their whole season was gurgling down the stank like flat beer.
All the things they’re best at? Nowhere to be seen. A crack at the top three turned into a flirtation with the bottom five.
This thrilling win didn’t take them one inch up the table.
Yet the way they rediscovered their mojo might just change their entire campaign — and begin a whole new chapter in the remarkable story of a topsy-turvy top-flight power struggle.
Bitter rivals Hearts look to have had their purple patch. Aberdeen are slowly moving up the gears.
Killie are still capable of beating anyone when their first XI are on the pitch.
Livi are buzzing after putting five past the Jambos, while St Johnstone are decent as long as their defence is on it.
Even Rangers, back on top once more, are, by their own manager’s admission, some way off being the finished article.
In short, there isn’t an out-standing side in the pack — not even, on the form they showed here, Celtic themselves.
All of which would tell anyone who saw Hibs produce such a dominant, determined display against the champions that there’s no reason on earth why they can’t aim to at least be best of the rest.
As long as that onlooker was seeing them for the first time. In isolation, in this mood, they are the real deal.
I mean, look at that first goal, scored in the very first minute and created using probably three-quarters of the pitch.
Vykintas Slivka opens the scoring against Celtic
From their right-back, retrieving a hoof down by his own corner flag, through a rat-a-tat of first-time passes into midfield, out to the left, attacking the back four, switching to the right again for a drop of the shoulder and an unerring finish.
It was gorgeous, a goal that could have been scored by Klopp’s Liverpool or Wenger’s Arsenal at their best.
And the thing is, it was no fluke — because anyone who’s watched Hibs under Lennon these past couple of years has seen these kind of moves time and again.
They’re sweeping, orchestral suites of football rising to a crescendo in the opposition box.
We’ve certainly seen their second goal before. Against the same defence no less.
At Parkhead back in October, the same Florian Kamberi drifted into the same hole to lash ferociously past a helpless Craig Gordon.
It was a strike Eden Hazard would have loved to own.
Again, it was no fluke. Whatever the Swiss is for ‘he’s got it in his locker’, well, he definitely has got it in his locker.
Kamberi shoots at goal
It was very much a classic Hibs-type goal to cap off a classic Hibs-type display.
Question is, can they bring another display like it when Rangers come calling on Wednesday?
If they can, it’s an eminently winnable game, which would give them an all-too-rare back-to-back double over the Old Firm and send them flying towards a home derby in the last game of the year.
At which point Lennon sighs: If only it was that simple . . .
If only a manager could freeze a day like this and thaw it out for next time.
If only he could tell them why they got it so right and all they had to do was repeat and enjoy. Be an easy gig then, eh?
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Still, it makes Wednesday night in Leith all the more exciting.
It gives everyone at Easter Road belief that the table DOES lie, because there’s no way they should be down among the stragglers.
Truth is, though, that table always tells the truth.
You end up where you are because of the results you don’t get — and those seven Hibs didn’t get between October and December have left them with a whole lot of making up to do.
The only sure thing about their quest being that it will never, ever be dull.
STEVEN GERRARD must be wishing there was a transfer window for directors.
Because he could empty the suits whose incompetence has left him pushing water uphill with a fork.
First out the door? Obviously whatever genius decided Pedro Caixinha was the way forward when he was clearly stumbling into completely the wrong movie.
Followed by all those who approved £20,000-plus a week for wastes of space like Carlos Pena, Eduardo Herrera and Bruno Alves and, worse still, left the door open for the first two to come back just when Gerrard needs funds to strengthen his squad.
Top of the league for now or not, he’s made mistakes of his own, no doubt about that.
Eduardo Herrera and Carlos Pena could be back at Rangers next month
He’s got team selection and tactics wrong at crucial times, all part of the process of learning the job in one of the toughest classrooms imaginable.
But there’s no doubt his job overall has been made a hell of a lot harder by decisions made upstairs that have proved as streetwise as a nun in a knife-fight.
It doesn’t help that while all the nonsense over Dave King’s shareholding goes on, no one’s quite sure who’s in charge.
It also doesn’t help the bond between those in charge when King himself accuses un-named shareholders of hanging about being involved in organised crime.
What it needs in there is a football brain, a link between the business types and the dugout, because right now it feels like Gerrard is having to go public with issues that really should be sorted out behind closed doors.
DEREK McINNES is bang on when he describes the the top-flight fixture list as “nuts”.
Fourteen games in four months followed by nine in 27 days?
That can’t be good for anyone, from players to punters.
Those on the pitch can’t possibly give their best every three days, those in the stands can’t afford to keep turning up — especially away from home — that often.
In trying to create an international calendar with no meaningless friendlies that’s sexy for worldwide telly, UEFA and FIFA have caused a real problem for leagues everywhere.
Derek McInnes on the touchline
They’ve taken away the flow, the tempo, the rhythm of what are the foundations of the professional game.
Couple of games in August, then a break. Two or three in September, then another break. Just in October and it all stops yet again.
A set-up that’s meant to gather pace naturally is instead tottering along like it’s picked the wrong studs for the conditions.
And trust me. That’ll only be allowed to go on for so long until the biggest clubs rebel and remind the Blazers where the power lies.
ROGER MITCHELL brought no good to the game when he was loosely described as being in charge of our top flight.
So it’s depressing to find that he’s no more of a positive influence after years in Civvy Street.
His Twittery barrage about the break Leigh Griffiths has taken from Celtic was as unpleasant as it was unhelpful, accusing the striker of using the banner of mental health issues as a get-out-of-jail card for the way he leads his life.
Now, I won’t debate here the digs Mitchell took at the boy — for a start, I don’t know if they’re true.
But even if they are, even if Griffiths is everything he’s painted as and more, that still doesn’t preclude him from suffering mentally.
Roger Mitchell during his time in charge of the SPL
Few suffer depression or anxiety in isolation, they’re conditions triggered by the stresses of work, domestic strife, drink, drugs, you name it.
But to seek treatment when you’re also — for instance — bevvying too much doesn’t make either one an excuse for the other.
You can’t refuse to accept there’s a mental health issue just because the sufferer also likes the bookies.
You know what, though?
Even if Mitchell has given Griffiths his character to the last dotted i and crossed t, he had no need to make an already-sensitive situation worse by putting in the boot in that way.
Just goes to show, you don’t have to be a thicko to stink up social media. Just an ignoramus.
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