2020/21 in Review – Hibernian
Hibernian enjoyed a successful season, as the Edinburgh outfit secured European football for 2021/22 and reached the final of the Scottish Cup. Struan Garvie takes a look back at Hibs’ recently concluded campaign.
Continued progress, cup runs, and cardboard kangaroo cut-outs – that is perhaps the best way to summarise this past season for Hibernian.
After a successful summer transfer window, securing the services of Alex Gogic, Kyle Magennis, Jamie Murphy, Drey Wright, and highly-rated prospect Kevin Nisbet, many had high hopes for Jack Ross’ side heading into the 2020/21 season. This was Ross’ first full season in charge of Hibs, with many supporters expecting big things from the Leith team.
The 2020/21 season was Hibs’ fourth back in the top-flight – after promotion in 2017 – and they got off to the perfect start, winning five and drawing two of their opening eight league matches. Many fans were feeling very confident about what the side could go on to achieve. The aim at the start of the season for Hibs was to finish at least third in the Premiership and to go far in the domestic cup competitions.
Those early season goals were achieved, as Hibs secured third place in the penultimate league game of the season with a victory against fellow contenders Aberdeen. This was the first time since 2005 that Hibs have finished third in the top-flight and, in the process, they guaranteed themselves European football for the 2021/22 season. Hibs also made it to the semi-finals of the League Cup and the final of the Scottish Cup but were beaten in both competitions by eventual winners St. Johnstone.
Despite a very good league campaign and guaranteeing European football for the 2021/22 season, defeat in the Scottish Cup final put a real dampener on Hibs’ season.
A final note on this past season was it marked the end of Ofir Marciano’s time at Hibs. ‘Rocky’ enjoyed an excellent five-year spell at the club, making over 100 appearances in the process. A real fan favourite who will be greatly missed. Now, it looks like Matt Macey – who is very tall – and Kevin Dabrowski will be battling it out to become Hibs’ new first-choice keeper.
Looking ahead to the 2021/22 season, Hibs must continue to build on this past season’s progress and find a way to overcome their issues in the cup competitions.
Player of the Season – Martin Boyle
Although I could have selected Joe Newell, Paul McGinn, or Paul Hanlon here, I have decided to go with Martin Boyle as I believe he stood out the most in the 2020/21 season.
Boyle enjoyed a very strong season for Hibs by scoring 15 goals and providing 12 assists in 48 appearances. Boyle finished joint third – with James Tavernier – in the Scottish Premiership scoring charts and joint fourth – with David Turnbull and Borna Barisic – in the assist charts.
Throughout the season Boyle scored some crucial goals for Hibs and was a player that Ross could rely on in important games. Boyle’s speed and skill made the Australian a nightmare for defenders to handle.
Often featuring on both the left and right-wing, as well as playing through the middle at times, Boyle’s versatility allowed Hibs to use a variety of formations and systems throughout the season.
Boyle also formed a very good partnership with compatriot Jackson Irvine following the latter’s arrival at the club in January. The two became a real threat for Hibs and played some excellent football together.
Young Player of the Season – Josh Doig
It takes a lot to displace Lewis Stevenson at Hibs, and yet Josh Doig made it look easy. Doig made 24 league appearances this past season for Hibs, scoring one goal and providing four assists.
Doig was very useful to the side due to his versatility – he proved to be just as comfortable playing in a back four as he was in a back five. This allowed Ross to use a variety of systems throughout the season and keep Doig in the squad regardless of formation.
At only 18, Doig proved he was a player that Ross could rely on in the big games. This became clear after Doig started for Hibs in the Scottish Cup final.
At the end of the season, Doig was named the Scottish Football Writers’ Association (SFWA) Young Player of the Year for the 2020/21 season – a great accolade for a very deserving winner.
Doig came into the season relatively unknown, with some on social media asking if the name ‘Doig’ was just a misspelling of Christian Doidge’s name on the team sheet. After such a strong debut season, however, every fan in Scotland now knows the name Josh Doig.
Signing of the Season – Kevin Nisbet
The 24-year-old arrived at Hibs in the summer and was greeted with a lot of excitement amongst fans. After a very good season in the Championship with Dunfermline, many believed that moving to Hibs was the perfect opportunity for Nisbet to take the next step in his career.
Nisbet ended this past season as the club’s top scorer (18) and finished joint second – with Kemar Roofe – in the Scottish Premiership scoring charts with 14 league goals. Nisbet also scored crucial goals for Hibs outside of the league, notably against Dundee United in the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup.
There was some uncertainty over Nisbet’s future in January when it was reported that Birmingham City were very interested in attaining the striker’s signature. Thankfully for Ross, Nisbet did not move and finished the season with Hibs.
Nisbet was rewarded for such a strong season with Hibs by receiving a call-up to the Scotland squad ahead of the 2020 Euros this summer. Hopefully, he can perform in the same way for his national side as he has for his club.
Goal of the Season – Alex Gogic vs Kilmarnock
Currently 1-0 up against Kilmarnock, a victory for Hibs would put them into third place. The ball drops to Alez Gogic on the edge of the box and, with a strike that would make Alan Partridge scream, Hibs double their advantage.
For a player who does not score often, Gogic certainly knows how to strike a ball. His shot from outside of the box went straight into the top right-hand corner as quick as a flash. As it turned out, this would be Gogic’s only goal of the season, and what a way to get it.
- Martin Boyle’s first goal against Kilmarnock on the opening day, rounding the keeper and finishing through Kirk Broadfoot’s legs.
- Stevie Mallan’s 30-yard screamer against Dundee.
- Christian Doidge’s set up and volley against Aberdeen.
- Kevin Nisbet’s far post finish against Celtic.
Moment of the Season – Securing Third and Europe
Many people knew going into this season that Hibs would be able to have a successful season in the league, however, not everyone was convinced they were good enough to finish third.
Hibs managed to secure third place in the 37th league game of the season with a 1-0 victory over Aberdeen. Before this match, Hibs dropped points at home to St. Johnstone and many feared that they may miss out on third. Fortunately, Hibs were able to perform when it mattered with a victory over The Dons.
Although Hibs missed out on the domestic cups this past season, they were able to perform well in the league and were deserving of a third-place finish – a clear indication of the progress made under Ross.
Hibs fans may not have able to attend games this past season, however, they will now be hoping to follow the team across Europe next season.
Moment to Forget – Losing the Scottish Cup Final
After a successful season in the league, Hibs fans were full of excitement as they geared up for the match against St. Johnstone in the final of the Scottish Cup. After being eliminated by the same opposition in the League Cup, many believed this was an opportunity for not only revenge but also for Hibs to lift the Scottish Cup for the second time in just five years.
Unfortunately for Hibs, they fell at the last hurdle. Shaun Rooney scored the decisive goal in the 32nd minute and Hibs were unable to muster a reply. This was the first time Hibs had reached a cup final since their famous win in 2016 but ultimately it was a game that fans will soon want to forget.
A sad ending to an otherwise successful season.