BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
Fans’ favourite Michael Weir reckons Hibernian can maintain their title challenge to Rangers this season – because the players have now got to grips with playing for the club.
Weir, who lifted the League Cup with Hibs in 1991, grew up a supporter of the club and is desperate to see his boyhood heroes returned to what he believes is their rightful place in the country’s top division.
The Easter Road outfit face a battle to get there this term, however, as they chase Rangers at the top for the title and the one automatic promotion spot.
The uncertainty of the play-offs means the pressure is on to continue an incredible run of 14 wins in their last 15 matches to challenge Rangers at the summit.
And former winger Weir, who played 247 times for Hibs over two periods in the 1980s and ’90s, believes the current success is down to the squad embracing those high expectations on their shoulders.
The 49-year-old said: “I think they’ve improved massively. The manager has gone down the route of getting younger players and he’s picked them really well.
“He’s trying to get a style of play that suits the Hibs, because the Hibs have always been a team who play attacking football, all the way through from when I was young.
“And I think the players have grown in stature as well. The experience of last season has helped them and also the players who have come in have started to get to grips with the club.
“This is a big club, people forget that. This is a club that means you have a lot of expectation on your back when you play for the club.
“I think they’re starting to handle that and I think the supporters are starting to realise they’re on the right route.
“It’s going to take a wee bit more time but hopefully if they can get out of this league this season then I think the club will move on no end.”
Down to the wire
Defeats to Dumbarton and Rangers, and a draw at home to St Mirren in the opening weeks of the season, instantly gave Hibs a mountain to climb in chasing a Rangers team that proved unbeatable in the league until the Easter Road side won a ding-dong battle last month.
Weir is now hopeful Hibs can maintain their current run of nine consecutive victories to have a chance of pipping Rangers to the title in April.
In an interview with Hibs TV at a Show Racism the Red Card event, ‘Mickey’ added: “I think it will go right down to the wire. But you’ve got other teams as well, there’s not just Hibs and Rangers.
“There’s other teams who could cause problems. They may not necessarily win the league, but they can cause others problems, and that’s where the knife-edge will come into it.
“We’re positioned well, it’s just all about consistency and winning football matches. There’s no better feeling than going every week and picking up the points.
“Success breeds success and that winning feeling is the only feeling worth having in that changing room.”
Meanwhile, head coach Alan Stubbs has admitted his side have been handed a difficult tie in the Scottish Cup after being drawn to face Raith Rovers away from home in January.
Stubbs said: “We’re obviously familiar with Raith Rovers and we know them well. The match will be a tough challenge, but I’m sure they’ll be saying the same.
“We’ll put it to the back of our minds for now – there’s a few weeks until the game so we’ll concentrate on the next few matches and look forward to the cup game when it comes around.”