BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
BRIAN GRAHAM has refuted any suggestion that Hibernian are a dirty team following a remarkable run of three red cards in five fixtures, insisting THEY are the ones being routinely “battered” by their opponents.
Graham confesses to a sense of disbelief on Saturday when he watched Marvin Bartley receive his marching orders for an alleged stamp on Morton winger Bobby Barr.
The capital club saw the decision rescinded on Thursday, meaning he is free to face Dunfermline this weekend – however the damage from Stark’s Park is already done.
Bartley saw his previous red card in Hibs’ 2-1 defeat against Ayr United last month quashed, while Lewis Stevenson also made the long walk for an early bath in their 0-0 draw against Queen of the South.
While Graham acknowledges Hibs’ disciplinary woes make grim reading, he reckons their record is deceptive and belies the fact Neil Lennon’s side are one of the “fairest” in the division.
“You are sitting there thinking ‘surely that can’t be another red card!’” said Graham ruefully. “That is just the way it seems to be going at the moment.
“I don’t worry about us getting a reputation at all. We’re certainly not a dirty team and if you watch our games, 90 per cent of the time it is our boys taking a battering, but if the ref then gives us a red card, there’s nothing we can do about that.”
Bartley did, at least, see the funny side of the incident on Monday morning when he tweeted “today I will be practising how to stop in mid air and also how to ‘boot’ someone half my size and not spin 180 degrees and end up on my bum!”
“Marv wasn’t particularly happy on Saturday after the game,” Graham continued. “But we’ve had a little bit of craic this week, a laugh and a joke, and he’s a wee bit more upbeat now.”
The trip to Dunfermline will see Hibs attempt to register their first victory in five outings. It is a run that, despite being underwhelming, has seen the Hibees return to the summit of the Championship by virtue of goal difference.
“People might look at it and say ‘they’re having a blip’. Well, how many clubs have a blip and are still top of the league?” added Graham. “Every team wants to shoot us down and we need to be ready for that.
“The fans have high expectations and what to get back to the Premiership and we, as players, are exactly the same. We just need to stick together and I believe we’ll get there.”
Meanwhile, Rod Petrie has hailed a “momentous” 2015/16 campaign for Hibernian as the Championship club announced a net profit of £200,000.
Revealing financial results for the 11 months ending June 2016, the Easter Road chairman outlined the importance of “sporting success” in halting two successive years of losses.
The most notable achievement, of course, was winning the Scottish Cup, ending a 114-year wait for the trophy with a 3-2 win over Rangers at Hampden in May. They also reached the final of the League Cup, losing to Ross County.
Petrie said: “To say [the Scottish Cup win] was a momentous achievement for the club is a massive understatement given the anxiety and emotions which had pent up over the decades since previous wins. That was evident on the day at Hampden Park.
“Great joy and jubilation also was evident the next day as tens of thousands of Hibernian supporters witnessed the open top bus parade from the City Chambers to Leith Links.
“Who can look back on these events without a lump in their throat and a tear in their eye remembering all those who have gone before and who would have wished to share this achievement with us?”
Hibs’ profit was achieved despite the club confirming turnover was up from £5.6 million to £7 million and staff cost rose from £3.4m to £3.8 million. Wages to turnover ratio, meanwhile, fell from 61 per cent to 54 per cent.
Following the inception of fans’ group Hibernian Supporters Limited (HSL), allied with the Share Issue, Petrie also confirmed that the supporters’ stake in the club has risen considerably in the period of the accounts.
He added: “As of June 2016, Hibernian supporters owned 31.8 per cent of the Club (up from 18.2% at 31 July 2015). 23.6 per cent was held directly by 2,400 supporter shareholders and 8.2 per cent was held by Hibernian Supporters Limited on behalf of its members.”