Whatever happens in the future, if we go on to dominate world football or we are reduced to stories and stats like many clubs in the last few years, no one who followed Hibernian during the 2015/16 season will ever forget it.
The season ended on the highest possible high but it wasn’t all plain sailing. A bad start for the second season in a row meant we were chasing our promotion rivals instead of setting the pace. Alan Stubbs has achieved amazing things in the cup competitions but our league results under him have left a lot to be desired at times. I don’t blame our defeat at Dumbarton on the first day solely on Stubbs though, the Scott Allan transfer saga probably made our dressing room a very tense place to be in the early season. We ended up getting a brilliant deal in return for Allan, probably one of the best we have ever negotiated, but our league season never fully recovered from losing 2 of our first 3.
We did draw level with Rangers just before Christmas but our defeat a week later, against the Ibrox side, put us behind again and our league form during February and March compounded things, eventually costing us 2nd place. To be quite honest, Alan Stubbs seriously needs to improve our league form if he wants to keep his job for all of next season. Hibs being in this league for any more than 3 years is unthinkable.
I think we will be favourites for automatic promotion but it is not guaranteed. St Mirren will not be as bad as they were this year, Falkirk will again provide tough competition and Dundee United being relegated will make it very interesting for the neutral. First of all, we need to stop playing to the level of our opposition. Too often have we struggled against the poor sides. Dumbarton, Alloa, Morton, Livingston and Raith Rovers all took points from us this season and with all due respect to those clubs, Hibs should be beating them. On the other hand, some of our best performances have come against the so-called better teams. Rangers, Aberdeen, Hearts, Dundee United, and St Johnstone all fell to us this season across the 3 competitions.
We very much struggled at times to kill games and it regularly came back to bite us. Long term injuries to Farid El Alagui and Danny Carmichael didn’t help but we still had enough quality on the park to be finishing games in a much more comfortable fashion. Even though he scored 25 goals Jason Cummings often needed 3/4 chances before he put one away and our lack of goals from the midfield meant we relied on him far too much. A goalscoring midfielder and a left winger have to be high on Alan Stubbs’ list in the summer and assuming Jason Cummings doesn’t sign a new contract, a striker who can replace his tally.
Despite a less than stellar league showing, the season was definitely more good than bad. Reaching both cup finals was an incredible achievement, the first time in our history we have got to both the league and Scottish cup finals in the one season. The victories over Aberdeen, Dundee United and the semi-final win at Tynecastle against St Johnstone on our way to the league cup final were all brilliant victories and great moments supporting Hibs. The late defeat in the final to Ross County was a horrible moment but I will fondly remember the rest of the league cup campaign.
The Scottish cup win was incredible and very much worth all the misery that preceded it. We probably had to win that game or we would have faced another summer of uncertainty and turnover. The win will be a big boost to our promotion push next season. The financial benefits from season ticket sales, merchandise, and our fan ownership scheme, HSL, will be huge and enable us to keep the majority of this season’s squad intact.
Even with the Scottish cup win I wouldn’t mind us sacrificing both cups next season, especially if we make any headway in Europe. Playing 54 games in all competitions this season was far too much for our squad to deal with. Only a handful of clubs in the world have squads capable of successfully competing on all fronts and none of them play in the Scottish championship.
I probably picked the right season to attend every home game for the first time. I’d always missed 1 here or there for whatever reason but I didn’t miss a minute at Easter Road in 2015/16 it was well worth it in the end. Dominique Malongas goal against Aberdeen, hammering Dundee United, the 2 league victories over Rangers and of course, beating Hearts in the Scottish cup are just some of the great moments at home this season. 2 defeats in 25 home games is pretty good going.
I would absolutely have taken a Scottish cup win and staying down at the start of the season, especially beating Rangers 3-2 in the final with a last-minute goal. We really do have to get ourselves promoted next season, though, as this club cannot fulfil its potential without being in the top tier.