It looked like Hibs’ season was dying on the vine under Paul Heckingbottom.
But Jack Ross’ arrival has seen green shoots of hope emerge at Easter Road.
It’s not that things have been as uniformly positive under Ross as they were relentlessly frustrating in the latter days of Heckingbottom’s reign.
It’s more that when things have gone well under the new man, Hibs have looked very, very good.
By contrast, when “Hecky” was at the wheel this season, they looked painfully soft from front to back.
That’s a huge part of the reason the Hibs hierarchy swing the axe in early November, with the club languishing in 10th place.
They had taken just nine points from the first available 33 of the campaign, and crashed out of the Betfred Cup after a 5-2 defeat to Celtic.
Heckingbottom’s summer signings – with the exception of Scott Allan, who signed a pre-contract agreement while Neil Lennon was still in charge at Easter Road – looked questionable at best.
Established stars like Florian Kamberi and Stevie Mallan were misfiring, while defensive stalwart Paul Hanlon, without a regular partner, was wobbling badly.
With confidence low, gushing early talk from players of Heckingbottom’s impressive attention to detail began to lose its sparkle, leaving only questions about what had happened between his initial red-hot run as gaffer and its ultimately terminal decline.
Enter Jack Ross – and finally the suggestion of some answers for concerned Hibs fans.
They weren’t offered in the media, through soundbites and polished PR presentation, though Ross is certainly impressive on that front.
Instead, his Hibs side started to do their talking on the pitch beginning, to be fair, even before he arrived when caretaker Eddie May led them to a resounding and deserved 4-1 win over St Johnstone.
Wins over Motherwell, St Mirren, Aberdeen and Hearts have followed, showcasing a side finding new life as a free-flowing, attacking machine.
Building on Ross’ early work while nurturing their new identity will be the priority going forward.
Scott Allan has been surpassed in recent weeks on the headline-grabbing front by Martin Boyle, but Allan remains the beating heart of Hibs.
His range of passing has never been in doubt, but he has employed it as effectively in the first half of this season as he ever has.
Fans of other clubs – one in particular (Rangers) – have taken a cynical line on the Hibs man’s contribution, provoked by what they see as simpering coverage.
But there is no smoke without fire, and Allan has been in red-hot form this season, even when Hibs have not.
His importance to the Hibees is emphasised by the statistics. With seven goals and six assists to his name, he has done more than most to keep heads held high around Easter Road.
Times were tough under Heckingbottom, but Allan kept plugging away.
Under Jack Ross, he will be determined to shine.
Hibees fans had high expectations at the start of the season, but they were quickly tempered.
As a club, Hibs want to be focused on catching teams above them. But for a time under Paul Heckingbottom, fearful glances were beginning to be cast downwards.
In acting quickly to stop the rot, the Hibs board gained a progressive young manager in Jack Ross – and progress is what the club demands going forward.
Between now and the rest of the season, that means a comfortable top-six finish, and preferably a serious tilt at a European place.
Such is the talent in the Easter Road dressing room, that is an entirely legitimate aim, as is a crack at the Scottish Cup.
Jack Ross won’t feel obliged to make too many changes to his squad this month, though two or three hand-picked additions would help.
A defensively-minded midfielder will be top of the Hibs gaffer’s shopping list.
If he gets his man, the only way will be up.
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