Hibs' unhappy birthday

By Colin MoffatBBC Scotland
Hibernian manager Colin Calderwood
Calderwood has won only 11 of his 45 games as manager of Hibernian

When manager Colin Calderwood arrived, Hibernian were a club in freefall.

One year on, with the Edinburgh side one point off the bottom of the Scottish Premier League, they remain in a perilous situation.

A disappointing crowd of 8,518 booed Hibs off the pitch following Saturday's 1-0 loss to Motherwell.

The dwindling green and white faithful have witnessed just one home win in the league this season and Calderwood has a dismal record of five successes from 21 SPL games at Easter Road.

Having lost only once in six matches prior to the international break - a 1-0 reverse at Ibrox - there were signs of improvement.

But a new lilac strip produced a shrinking violets performance against Motherwell, prompting Calderwood to say: "I'm as disappointed as I've been since I joined the club."

And there have been a few lows to pick from in his 12 months in charge, including a Scottish Cup exit to Ayr United and signing off last season with a run of five defeats and a draw.

"Consistency has been a major problem," said former Hibs defender Craig Paterson.

"After a shaky start for Colin, Hibs had a stunning 3-0 win at Ibrox and you thought things would kick on, but they drifted and were flirting with relegation.

"Then they put together five victories in a row and again you are thinking that's the corner turned. But they fell away again and they were the only club in the bottom six not to win a game after the split, so the season ended on a real downer."

Over the summer, Nottingham Forest and Birmingham wanted Calderwood in an assistant manager's capacity.

Hibs stubbornly held on to their man. However, the uncertainty dragged on for weeks and the former Scotland defender was perhaps too candid when admitting that other options were attractive.

Those comments, combined with his relaxed touchline attitude and lugubrious demeanour, have been interpreted by critics as an absence of passion for the job he has.

"The close season was a nightmare really," said Paterson, who left Hibs for Rangers in 1982.

"Hibs lost nine first-team regulars but only managed to secure early deals for Ivan Sproule, Garry O'Connor and Sean O'Hanlon before everything went into limbo.

"Colin needed to get in four or five more players and it wasn't until the window had almost closed that he was able to look at what was available.

"He should have been 100% committed to making sure he brought in quality replacements and I think that has cost Hibs.

"There must have been players who were interested who said 'look, I can't wait any longer' and had something else up their sleeves.

Hibernian striker Garry O'Connor
O'Connor has been in great form since his return to Easter Road

"With the team at the wrong end of the league, it makes them a less attractive proposition and, with crowds down, the budget for new players at the next window will be less than it might have been.

"There are not a lot of positives at the club right now."

One bright note has been the return of striker O'Connor and the club's plight would be much greater were it not for his 10 goals.

But there is a dearth of creativity in the side, with the, admittedly erratic talents of Merouane Zemmama, Liam Miller and Derek Riordan replaced by more athletic yet prosaic midfield players.

O'Hanlon is the only new recruit in a defence that was fragile last season and the former MK Dons man has done nothing to solve that problem.

Hibs supporters may have a skewed view of their club's standing, with the annual budget for polish in the Easter Road trophy room unlikely to stretch much beyond the cost of a pie and Bovril.

But the club has a large fan base and, thanks to the sale of a procession of star players in recent years, can boast a state-of-the-art training complex and an impressive stadium, albeit with a lot of empty seats.

It's hard to see where the next big transfer fee is coming from, with home-grown youngsters Paul Hanlon, David Wotherspoon and Callum Booth rather stuttering in a team shorn of confidence.

The shelf life for Hibs managers appears to be 18 months. That's approximately how long previous incumbents John Hughes, Mixu Paatelainen and John Collins lasted.

Can Hibs afford to give Calderwood another six months to prove his worth?

"It's the nature of the SPL; week-in, week-out there is a manager in the firing line," added Paterson.

"A change of managers doesn't always give you that bounce and, if you do get it, it's often just a temporary lift.

"I think the appointment of Billy Brown as Colin's assistant has been a big plus - when you see him on the touchline, he's animated to say the least. And he's the kind of guy you need when you're looking for that bit extra.

"It's very easy to criticise the manager, but there comes a time when the players need to stand up and be counted."