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23 of 028 Ryan Stevenson 39 ;Andy Webster 69L SPL H

Perfection can wait, but Hibs must lift their game quickly

Published Date: 30 August 2011
By Stuart Bathgate
"One win and four defeats is inadequate, of course, but is not a calamitous sequence"
COLIN Calderwood could have saved himself a lot of bother on Sunday if he had ended his post-match press conference one word earlier. Asked if he hoped to add any more players to his squad before the closure of the transfer window, the Hibernian manager replied: "No, we're done. Ready to go."

That answer would have sufficed, but then Calderwood slipped in another word: "Perfect." The intention may have been to sum up his satisfaction with the backing given by the Hibs board to his bid to strengthen his resources, but in the wake of a 2-0 defeat by Hearts it sounded complacent or - perhaps worse - simply out of touch.

The manager had already made himself a hostage to fortune by stating that the "underlying talent of the group is way better than results suggest". In the wake of the team's fourth defeat in five league matches - a loss which left Hibs anchored at the foot of the SPL - there was an obvious inference to be drawn from that remark. If this Hibs team is indeed less than the sum of its parts, who is responsible for that if not the coach himself?

Given Calderwood's inability to explain himself adequately, and his team's league position, it is no surprise that many Hibs fans have turned against him and many neutrals think he will not hold on to his job for much longer. Having been allowed to recruit extensively over the summer, however, he is likely to be given more time by a board who are aware that they have made too many managerial changes over the past few years.

For the time being at least, that board will accept that there have been extenuating circumstances in Hibs' poor beginning to the campaign. One win and four defeats is an inadequate return, of course, but taken game by game it is not a calamitous sequence.

Defeat in the derby is par for the course, as is a 2-0 loss to Celtic. The one win was the first time Hibs had ever claimed three points at Inverness, which is an indication of progress no matter how fortunate they may have been to get the victory. Losing 4-1 at Kilmarnock was bad, as was going down 2-1 at home to St Mirren, but Calderwood's employers, having apparently accepted last season as a settling-in period, are not going to make a definitive judgment on their manager based on those two matches.

Two other points about Hibs' season so far. First, they dealt competently with a potentially tricky League Cup tie last week in seeing off Berwick Rangers with a convincing 5-0 display. Yes, it was only Berwick, but Hibs have been embarrassed by lower-league opponents before: on this occasion, they imposed their superiority in competent and efficient style.

Second, and more importantly, it was notable in yesterday's closing minutes at Tynecastle that Hibs still had some fight in them. Too literally at times, as their five bookings testified, but the aggression and determination with which they chased a lost cause was a clear sign that the manager has not lost the dressing room.

So the crisis has not yet become so deep that a change at the top will present itself to the directors as the only feasible option. Indeed, but for Graeme Shinnie's late goal which lifted Inverness off the bottom on Saturday - probably the worst thing to happen at the weekend from Hibs' point of view - there might well have been little talk of a crisis at all after the loss to Hearts. Having said all that, it is clear that no-one at the club can afford to have infinite patience with Calderwood, and that his team's next four league matches - all of them winnable - could determine his future. After this weekend's international break, Hibs are at home to Aberdeen, away to Dunfermline, then at home to Dundee United and St Johnstone, all before the end of September. They also visit Motherwell on League Cup business, but that match could prove to be an unwelcome distraction: the league is the crucial competition. Even seven points out of 12 would surely be enough to lift Hibs up the table and lift the gloom over Easter Road. They are not the only club with glaring weaknesses, and a small improvement could go a long way.

Does Calderwood have the nous to make that improvement? As he spoke on Sunday of his satisfaction with his signings, it was obvious that he thought so. In those next four games, he must turn his positive words into actions.

Taken from the Scotsman

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