This time last year when Hibernian sat down to vocalise their aims for the campaign ahead, the third place they set their sights on may, to some, have seemed ambitious. Twelve months on, Christian Doidge has confessed a repeat of that is the least they expect.
After Thursday’s 5-1 aggregate victory over Santa Coloma in the Europa Conference League, setting up a third round qualifier against Croatians Rijeka, manager Jack Ross admitted his squad face a major challenge ensuring they can keep up the fight both domestically and on the continent.
The first test of that comes this afternoon against Motherwell, but as ever the Easter Road side approach the new Premiership season full of optimism. Last term ended on a downer with the heartbreaking Scottish Cup final loss to St Johnstone, who were also their conquerors in the Betfred Cup semi-final, but Doidge is eager for a fast start to the new one.
“The Old Firm are great clubs, they can get players on the pitch from all around the world,” said Doidge when asked if Hibs could go one better and split Glasgow’s big two. “Their finances are a lot bigger than ours.
“For us to get third is definitely our aim and, you never know, football can be crazy, maybe nick into second. Listen, we are going to focus on third again because that was a great achievement for the football club and something we had not done in a long time [16 years].
“That is definitely our target. Last year we set out our targets – to get third and get to a cup final. We obviously came up short in the final itself but, in terms of league performances, I thought we were outstanding and in getting third we broke our away points record.”
Hibs were well served by new signings Jake Doyle-Hayes and goal-scorer Dan Mackay against Santa Coloma in midweek, but until the transfer window closes there remains doubts over continuing interest in star turns Kevin Nisbet, Josh Doig, Martin Boyle and Ryan Porteous.
“I probably think about it more over the close season,” said Ross. “But certainly now we are in the guts of the season it is about the squad I have and believing that they will be with me until told otherwise.”