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Hibernian season preview: Third place is an achievable goal for Paul Heckingbottom this season

© SNSHibernian head coach Paul Heckingbottom
Hibernian head coach Paul Heckingbottom

If fans were not exactly bowled over by the arrival of Paul Heckingbottom in February – at a time when he was unemployed – they were soon won over.

For the former Leeds United and Barnsley boss wasted zero time in leading his new club on a 10-game unbeaten league run.

Supporters were treated to the first derby away win in six years, plus a gutsy 0-0 draw with champions Celtic.

Heckingbottom’s instant impact was rewarded with the Manager of the Month award for March, with some joking that had he been in from the start of the season, the Easter Road club would be in contention for the title itself.

A finishing run of three defeats led the Yorkshireman to chide his players for downing tools early. But he had already established himself as both his own man and an intriguing new character in the soap opera that is Scottish football.

He was the first, certainly, to state he felt like knocking out a fourth official’s teeth because the man in question had sworn at him during a draw in his second Edinburgh derby.

He later said it was only meant in jest.

Fans will be more interested in his serious side, specifically his plans for their team. But on both counts, the 42-year-old will be worth watching.

TRANSFERS

In: Scott Allan, Joe Newell, Josh Vela, Adam Jackson, Christian Doidge, Tom James.

Out: Marvin Bartley, Lewis Allan, Ross Laidlaw, Mark Milligan, Miquel Nelom, Gael Bigirimana, Jonathan Spector, Kane O’Connor, Callum Donaldson, Kevin Waugh, Ruari Paton.

A comparitively quiet window for Hibs, but not a bad one for all that.

The return of old favourite, Scott Allan, will offer extra creativity in central midfield, and the recruitment of striker Christian Doidge from Forest Green Rovers is intriguing.

Bought for around £250,000 back in January, the 26-year-old Welshman was due to make a £1-million switch to Bolton Wanderers, who had had him on loan, but the deal collapsed due to the Trotters’ financial problems.

He hit 14 goals in England’s League Two last season and manager Heckingbottom has gone on record to state his belief he will be ideally suited for Scottish football.

TARGETS

The superior financial resources of Celtic and Rangers realistically put them out of Hibs reach. But they will fancy themselves to come out on top of the rest.

Third place certainly is one to aim at, a goal they will share with Aberdeen.

Easter Road offers one of the country’s most-lively atmospheres when packed full of expectant home fans and, for that reason alone, the Edinburgh side are always one to keep in mind when it comes to the cup competitions.

In the late-season run mentioned above, they racked up six wins against Premiership rivals, as well as draws against both Celtic and Rangers.

If they can hit that sort of form again, they have no reason to fear anyone.