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Hibs quickly recruit Ross while Hearts remain managerless

ByBen Cairns

Dec 1, 2019

In a city divided between two football clubs, it is inevitable that they often seem to be two sides of the same coin. Edinburgh has taken this to new heights in the past fortnight, with its clubs sacking their managers within four days of each other, having endured almost identically underwhelming starts to the season.

Hibs have responded quickly to sign former Sunderland boss Jack Ross, who has extensive experience of Scottish football from his time in charge of Alloa Athletic and St Mirren. Hearts, conversely, are still on the managerial hunt.

First to go was Craig Levein, sacked by Hearts after a 1-0 loss at St Johnstone. Hibernian’s Paul Heckingbottom followed Levein after a 5-2 defeat to Celtic in the League Cup Semi-Final capped off an utterly miserable start to the season.

It is difficult to overstate how poorly the two clubs have begun this season. After eleven games, having faced every other team in the SPFL, both clubs have only one win: Hibernian’s came on opening day against St Mirren, while in an ironic touch, Hearts’s only win was at Easter Road. These rare victories aside, there are plenty of shocking results to choose from, from Hibs’s 6-1 humbling at Rangers to Hearts’s strongest XI being forced to a penalty shootout by lowly East Fife in the League Cup.

Similarly to last season, Levein can justifiably blame an injury crisis for his team’s struggles, with some of his key players missing important games. Nevertheless, Levein has demonstrated little ability to lift the mood. The style of play has been insipid – though Hearts’s respectable defence has conceded only 15 goals, the strikers’ total of 10 scored is paltry, with only St Mirren managing fewer.

The stagnant product on the pitch has caused the mood among the fans to turn ugly and forced the board’s hand – for all of Hearts’s injury misfortunes, the budget at Levein’s disposal demands that the Jambos be a lot higher up the table and certainly nowhere near the relegation battle in which they are currently embroiled.

On the face of it, Paul Heckingbottom may also feel a little unlucky to lose his job, with five straight league draws at least indicating a return to relative  stability after an awful start. However, given that Hibs surrendered leads in four of these five draws, the outlook beings to look rather less rosy.

Hibernian do not share their neighbours’ relative defensive solidity, having shipped an average of two goals a game so far, while a litany of summer signings, intended to inject firepower, have failed to deliver. Christian Doidge has not yet justified his £250,000 price tag, while the frequent chopping and changing of the starting XI indicates that Heckingbottom never fully worked out how to fit his new side together.

The name most frequently linked with the Hearts job is Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson, whose team sit third in the league, although the newly available Northern Ireland job may complicate Hearts’s efforts to woo him. Quick success from interim manager Austin MacPhee may even negate the need for a change.

Either way, something needs to change on both sides of the Edinburgh divide if the two clubs want to return to their rightful place in the higher reaches of the league. A fast start from Ross, and whoever takes over at Tynecastle, is vital.


Image: Geni via Wikimedia Commons

By Ben Cairns

Sport Editor