Manager Alan Stubbs is pleased with Hibernian's progress but admits he would not have accepted the post had he fully known the task he was inheriting.
Hibs lie five points behind Rangers after Sunday's 2-1 victory over the Championship leaders.
Stubbs is now in his second season at Easter Road, having joined after the club's drop from the top flight.
"If I knew how bad it was beforehand, with what I had and the structure, I wouldn't have taken it," he said.
"There was nothing in place in terms of recruitment, no physio, eight players.
"The club was on its knees from relegation."
Hibs recovered from a slow start to finish second behind Hearts in the Championship last term, only to lose out in the play-off semi-finals to Rangers, who were subsequently routed in the final by Motherwell.
Now both clubs are fighting it out again for promotion.
Spirits are high at the Edinburgh side following an unbeaten run of 11 matches in all competitions, which includes 10 wins.
And that is in stark contrast to the mess Stubbs found when replacing Terry Butcher at the club in June 2014.
"When you don't win, you find that players come in from training then they can't get out of the door quick enough," the 44-year-old told BBC Scotland.
"It's not a vibrant environment. We needed to get the confidence up and the players saw a management team that wanted to help them.
"The players deserve all the credit. I just implement little things, which address certain issues and they carry everything out."
Stubbs needed to overhaul a depleted squad in his first campaign and had to deal with the loss of star man Scott Allan this summer, the midfielder joining Celtic after repeated bids from Rangers were rebuffed.
"You live and die on your recruitment in football," explained the former Everton and Celtic defender. "We've been lucky but we've been good as well.
"The players have fitted into our model and the squad camaraderie is second to none.
"Sometimes you have little divisions in the dressing room but the lads are so together it's scary. There are always different personalities but everybody wants to be part of what we are doing.
"The biggest improvement is that we are more of a team.
"Scott Allan was fantastic for us last season but we probably relied on him too much as a individual."
Hibs were hammered by Rangers in the Petrofac Training Cup on the opening day of the season and lost to Dumbarton in their first league match but Stubbs is proud of how his side has recovered to stay in touch with the Ibrox side.
"We're close to Rangers and you've got to remember that their budget is significantly bigger than anyone else in the league," he added.
"I'd say it's at least four times bigger than ours, so they should be out there in front.
"[Rangers manager] Mark Warburton has done a really good job. They've had a fantastic start [11 Championship wins in a row before Sunday's defeat], so for us to only be five points behind speaks volumes about how we've done."
Stubbs, who signed a new contract in July, expects Rangers to strengthen their squad in January and indicated that he would like to follow suit, with a right-back and a striker top of his list.
"If we are there or thereabouts, then I don't think our board would let Rangers reinforce and not do anything about it," he said.
"The club has already backed me in the early part of the season; we bought Dylan McGeouch from Celtic, we bought John McGinn [compensation to St Mirren].
"We're only talking a couple [of possible new faces] because we've done a lot of good business."
Dundee United visit Easter Road on Wednesday, with a place in the last four of the League Cup at stake.
And Stubbs is sure such a high-profile match will act as a deterrent against complacency, saying: "They can't think that everything else is going to fall into place because they've had a good result against the team above us,
"Football has a horrible habit of kicking you when take that little bit of gas off the pedal.
"We need to make sure we are focused and ready and I'm delighted that we have another big game coming up."