Hibernian head coach Paul Heckingbottom insists he has assembled a superior squad to the one that finished last season after putting his own stamp on the team over the summer.
After inheriting a group of players put together by successor Neil Lennon when he took over the reins in February, the former Leeds United boss has made the most of the transfer window to recruit seven new players, with 11 moving in the opposite direction.
Despite being unable to re-sign Marc McNulty and Stephane Omenonga following the success of their loan spells last term, Heckingbottom is still convinced his playing pool is now stronger.
Heckingbottom, whose side welcome St Mirren in tomorrow’s Ladbrokes Premiership curtain raiser following a successful Betfred Cup campaign, said: “There were big changes in personnel, 11 out – seven in.
“We’ve lowered the age of the squad, have better physical presence, better balance and two in every position.
“Now we have control over it.
“Am I comfortable with it being labelled my team? Yes, definitely.
“From now on our job every window is to get stronger.
“This is a start now, big changes in the squad and every window now our job is to get stronger.
“We have recruited to try to do that, we want a high tempo game, energetic, quick, aggressive – but now we are in control to get better.
“If we are not where I want us to be in January or next summer we can keep improving.
“We want to start getting better, start something and it coincides with new ownership as well.”
Heckingbottom also revealed he could only trust a small number of players to start games when he first arrived.
He added: “What we have got is much more competition. When we first walked through the door there were probably 12 players who could potentially start and by the end there were probably 15 who would have played in the 11. There is more than that now.”
The only negative of an encouraging pre-season and Betfred Cup group campaign is the aggravation of a knee injury that will see fleet-footed winger Martin Boyle undergo his second knee operation in the space of eight months next Tuesday.
Heckingbottom admits he is wasting little time in scoring the transfer market for a like-for-like replacement.
He added: “At least we can react to it still being in the window.
“So we will see what we can do. Until you get them over the line it is always a million miles away.
“The one thing Martin has is his stand out asset: pace, his energy.
“Looking at his physical stats when I first came in, his output in games, distance covered, high speed running, sprint distance – all a bit weapon in the way we want to play – I was looking forward to working with him.
“So, yes, that is his quality that we will be looking to replace. That’s difficult, not everyone can run like him.”