When Jack Ross took charge of Hibernian in November 2019 there was an anxiety around Easter Road. After a poor run of form, culminating in a 5-2 defeat against Celtic in the League Cup semi-final, Paul Heckingbottom was relieved of his duties.
What Heckingbottom left behind is what worried Hibs fans the most. Ten signings in the 2019 summer window, seven of them permanent, had so far failed to convince the Hibs support that they were good enough to help the club push for Europe. The new manager would be tasked with trying to turn things around with a squad largely pulled together by the previous coach.
Fast forward ten months and Jack Ross has put his own stamp on the side while returning more points than any Premiership club outside of the Old Firm since he took the job in November. Of the ten summer signings last year only four of them feature in the match day squads now, with Alex Gogic, Kevin Nisbet, Drey Wright, Jamie Murphy and loanee Dillon Barnes added to the squad this summer to make it Jack Ross’ own.
The emergence of Josh Doig at left back makes Ross the first manager since Pat Fenlon to displace Lewis Stevenson from the side for a significant period of time – evidence that Ross is happy to make big decisions and take responsibility for the consequences.
Doig’s performances combined with mature displays from Ryan Porteous and the inclusion of Jamie Gullan, Fraser Murray and Ryan Shanley in recent weeks shows that Ross is not afraid to look to the youth system. The development of young players is a tradition that Hibs fans have been very proud of over the years and it is something they will be pleased to see continued under the current management.
What strikes the most when listening to Jack Ross speak is that he has huge expectations for his players. He appears to know how the fans like the team to play and talks regularly about achieving performances and results which will push the club higher up the league and back to where the fan base believes the club should be.
There appears to be a real unity amongst the squad, with players agreeing to wage deferrals and cuts. New signing Kevin Nisbet talking openly about also taking a pay cut being the right thing to do following his arrival from Dunfermline Athletic in the summer.
A new contract for Martin Boyle resulted in the winger enthusing about the camaraderie and team spirit at East Mains and Easter Road – proof that what Jack Ross is building at Hibernian is something the players want to be a part of.
Ross’ calm and often relaxed demeanour in front of the cameras can sometimes be mistaken by fans for a lack of passion – in comparison to Neil Lennon anyone would look laid-back – but the confidence and trust he has in the players oozes out of him in press conferences and post-match interviews which means the positivity is passed on to the fans.
Some supporters still look at Ross’ time in charge of Sunderland and worry that he is inclined to sit on leads, conjuring up memories of losing late equalisers over the years after dominant displays, but a look at the convincing wins on the road over Livingston and St Mirren this season would suggest his teams aren’t afraid to put their foot on the gas and finish games off.
In three outings against either side of the Old Firm since Ross took over, Hibs have failed to come away with a single point. It’s an area where Neil Lennon earned huge plaudits while in charge at Easter Road – the ability to secure positive results home and away against Celtic and Rangers was the difference which propelled the club into Europe in 2018 and those games remain some of the fondest memories of Lennon’s time in charge.
With two big games coming up against Rangers and Celtic there is a great opportunity to see how the squad is shaping up against the big boys. A disappointing defeat to Aberdeen before the international break means there is still some work to do to convince people that Hibs mean business at the top end of the table this year, but the next two games give the club a chance to show what they can do.
Longevity at management level in football means the head coach is doing what they were brought in to do and it would be great to see Jack Ross given time in the role to really make his mark on the club.
Developing a long-term strategy and style alongside the recruitment department and sporting director, Graeme Mathie, with young, exciting players at the heart of the team would mean everything is going to plan. If the club’s results continue in the positive vein they have been in so far this season there’s no reason why Jack Ross can’t bring stability and success to the club.
Neil Lennon is the only manager since Tony Mowbray to have been in charge at Easter Road for more than two calendar years, both managers who Hibs fans look back on with fond memories. It would be great to see Jack Ross get to that stage on the back of some good results and positive performances.
Hibs fans have high expectations when it comes to watching their team, it’s a trait which can mean there’s overreaction in some circles when a result doesn’t go our way. The good news for Hibs fans though is that it appears Jack Ross has high expectations too.