Joe Newell reflects on slow start to Hibs career ahead of Celtic showdown

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HIBERNIAN winger Joe Newell insists he was under no illusion that he would walk straight into the Easter Road starting line-up following an underwhelming start to his career in Scotland.

Newell, along with £350,000 arrival Christian Doidge, has been seen by some supporters as indicative of errant summer recruitment by head coach Paul Heckingbottom.

With ample experience in the English Championship with Rotherham United, the 26-year-old was seen as a marquee capture and expected to be a key part of Heckingbottom’s new-look side.

Instead, he has started just two Premiership matches.

However, Newell believes his lack of opportunity owes as much to the quality of his teammates as any failing on his part, emphasising that he is not seeking to usurp ‘pub players’.

“It is up to you and how you perform,” said Newell. “I would have hoped it would be the case – but I would never expected to play every week.

“The gaffer did make quite a few new signings but the standard of the lads who were here already is part of it.

“They are good players so it’s not like the new lads have walked into a team full of pub players which would make it a certainty that we were all going to play. It is a good standard here.

“No one would have expected to just walk into the team and play every week. The gaffer [Heckingbottom] can only pick 11 players. He has to pick who he thinks can get him a result.

“It’s tough for whoever’s left out but he’s got to know the lads who aren’t playing are going to remain professional, train well and do everything to help the team.”

In the high-point of his Hibs tenure to date, Newell did climb from the bench in Wednesday evening’s Betfred Cup quarter-final against Kilmarnock to convert what ultimately proved to be the decisive penalty of a fraught shootout.

“There was a bit of pressure,” Newell smiles. “But that’s the beauty of it. You just have to try to thrive on that and embrace it. You take it on your shoulders and get on with it.”

Newell hopes that outing can prove to be a turning point personally, and as a club.

It was a pivotal triumph for boss Heckingbottom, coming on the back of a five-game winless run on the league and with supporters growing increasingly impatient.

“The penalty shoot-out win will hopefully spur us on and kick start our season,” the languid wide-man continued. “We all need to kick on now – myself, the players and the coaches – and show what we are capable of.

“We know what we have got here and we know we can be a force in the league. We should be up at the top end of the table.”

Today’s visit of imperious champions Celtic, purring of late, will be a fearsome barometer of whether Hibs have indeed turned a corner.

Heckingbottom’s Hibees faced the Hoops – managed by former Easter Road boss Neil Lennon – twice at the tail end of last season, losing once and claiming a creditable draw in Leith in April.

“The gaffer pulled up [last season’s games against Celtic] earlier,” added Newell. “We played them twice in the space of a few weeks after he came in last season and said the second time was a lot better.

“We got after them more and were on the front foot. We want that to continue.”

 
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