Looking back it was another roller-coaster year for Hibs’ fans with five trips to Hampden, four European games, third in the table, two giant screens and a change of manager.
Traditionally January always started with an Edinburgh derby, normally played in front of a packed stadium but this year Hearts were in the Championship so Hibs had to settle for a home game against their nearest top-flight rivals, Livingston, and that behind closed doors. Covid restrictions meant the game was played at an empty stadium and it was probably just as well for Jack Ross and the players as Livingston took the honours with a comfortable 3-0 victory.
Jack Ross was busy in the transfer market bringing in Matt Macey, Chris Cadden and Jackson Irvine before another 3-0 defeat, this time at the National Stadium to St Johnstone didn’t improve the mood amongst the fans and January ended on a sad note with the deaths of former players John Grant and Duncan Falconer.
February was better though with three successive victories for Ross’s men against St Mirren, Aberdeen and Hamilton Academical and highly rated youngster Josh Doig was rewarded with a new long term contract.
The highlight in March was an away victory over Ross County in Dingwall thanks to goals from Martin Boyle and Kevin Nisbet who caught the eye of Steve Clarke and was called up for the Scotland national team. Scott Allan returned to training following a period of illness and joined Inverness Caledonian Thistle on loan.
In April there was a memorable penalty shoot-out victory over Motherwell after a 2-2 draw to reach the Scottish Cup semi-final and promising young goalkeeper Kevin Dabrowski signed a new two-year deal.
In May, Josh Doig was named SPFL Young Player of the Year, Matt Macey signed an extended deal replacing Ofir Marciano and winger Daniel McKay joined from Inverness.
A Scottish Cup semi-final victory over Dundee United ended the “big game bottlers” tag aimed at Ross but they returned after another Cup Final defeat to St Johnstone at an empty Hampden.
There was no rest for Doig and Mackay who were called up to the Scotland Under-21 squad in June whilst “Sir” David Gray announced his retirement and Fraser Murray joined Kilmarnock whilst highly rated Jake Doyle-Hayes joined the club from St Mirren.
In July 2,000 fans were allowed back into the stadium to see Hibs beat Arsenal 2-1 in a pre-season friendly then Hibs cruised past Andorran side Santa Coloma in the second qualifying round of the inaugural Europa Conference League. Jack Ross signed an extension to his contract until the summer of 2024 and Hibs announced that USA international Chris Mueller had signed a pre-contract to join the club from Orlando City next year. Ben Kensell joined after three years in the role of Chief Operating Officer at newly promoted Premier League side Norwich City.
Another European tie awaited Ross’s side in August against HNK Rijeka but this time a 1-1 draw at Easter Road was followed by a 4-1 defeat in Croatia and the adventure was over for another year. Martin Boyle was named Player of the Month for August and signed an extended deal.
Christian Doidge picked up a long term injury leaving Hibs light up front and James Scott joined on a loan deal from Hull City. He was joined by England Under 20 international Nathan Wood signed on loan from Middlesbrough and Dylan Tait signed from Raith Rovers for an undisclosed fee.
September saw the return of the Edinburgh derby but the much waited fixture ended in a drab 0-0 draw. Two state of the art ‘Big Screens’ were installed at both corners of the East Stand. and Paul McGinn was called up to the Scotland squad.
October was a disaster for Hibs with four successive defeats to Rangers at Ibrox, Dundee United at Easter Road, Aberdeen at Pittodrie and Celtic at home and November wasn’t much better until that glorious half-hour at Hampden when “Starman” Martin Boyle scored a hat-trick to knock Rangers out of the League Cup and ensure a fifth Hampden trip in a calendar year. Former player and manager Bertie Auld sadly passed away and Steve Kean joined as Academy Director.
In December after a lacklustre defeat at the Tony Macaroni Arena Hibs surprisingly dispensed with the services of Ross with Gray taking over. Belgium’s assistant manager Shaun Maloney took over ahead of the Premier Sport League Cup final against Celtic.