JOE NEWELL got it in the neck from fans last season and has been the butt of his team-mates’ jokes of late – but he is determined to have the last laugh against Kilmarnock.
The midfielder admits himself he was below par when he first arrived at Hibs 12 months ago.
He was not alone; many of Paul Heckingbottom’s signings – most of whom came from south of the border – failed to hit the ground running.
Newell, as well as Christian Doidge and Adam Jackson, have shaken off criticism and turned things around under Jack Ross, but others have since left Easter Road or are frozen out.
And, despite the unusual pre-season preparations because of the coronavirus crisis, the 27-year-old is feeling much better about himself going into the kick-off to the new campaign.
When asked about last year’s flak, Newell said: “We got battered, yes. But we were not good enough, so we could not really argue with it.
“Hecky [Heckingbottom] signed all of us from down south and I don’t think really any of us started playing well so it was no surprise.
“It was frustrating at first, not to be playing very well, but I was more frustrated at myself because I just knew I was not playing as well as I could.
“I can’t really put my finger on why. It was just a slow couple of months to start with at Hibs.
“But it’s one of those things. It has not worked out for a few of the lads who have gone back down to England but the majority of us are settled now.
“Did I win people over? Maybe, yes, but personally I knew I was playing better than I had been. I was enjoying it. I was playing regularly in my preferred position.
“I have been here for a year now and I feel a lot better now and a lot more at home and comfortable. And I think I’m playing a lot better than I did when I first arrived.”
The jibes recently have been coming the way of the Birmingham City fan from within the Hibs dressing room.
But they have been more good-natured following Aston Villa’s dramatic relegation escape and his favourites’ questionable decision to ‘retire’ the number 22 of departing teenager Jude Bellingham.
“Absolutely devastated,” he admitted when asked about Villa. “I have been abused so much this past week and I wasn’t too happy about that.
“Paul McGinn has been one of them. They have been absolutely battering me.
“Then Birmingham decided to retire the number 22 shirt for a lad who has played 40 games and that hasn’t helped my case!”