Scottish Daily Mail

TOUGH LOVE

Three cup semi-finals and their best league finish in years, but Ross failed to merit a mention as boss of the year and even star striker Nisbet is under fire. No wonder Doidge is left baffled by Hibs’ season of...

- JOHN GREECHAN Chief Sports Writer

WHERE is the love for Hibernian FC? Why is there so little appreciati­on for what they’ve done, what they might yet achieve, in such trying circumstan­ces?

They’re about to play in their third semi-final of this wrap-around season, if you include October’s held-over Scottish Cup clash with Edinburgh rivals Hearts.

Still likely — if not guaranteed — to finish third in a Scottish Premiershi­p, the side built by Jack Ross have shown themselves to be more than just knockout specialist­s capable of landing a lucky punch.

Yet Ross can’t even get on a Manager of the Year shortlist. Top scorer Kevin Nisbet, having made the transition from Championsh­ip to top flight with almost embarrassi­ng ease, finds his work rate being questioned by one particular­ly opinionate­d former Hibs great.

Overall, it feels as if people are reserving judgment. Waiting to see if they hold off Aberdeen’s challenge for third — and, of course, get past Dundee United at Hampden this afternoon.

Even then, victory today will only make partial amends for backto-back losses at the national stadium, with January’s Betfred Cup semi-final trouncing by St Johnstone arguably even more painful than that derby defeat.

In what could be a straight shoot-out by two attack-minded sides, Ross will understand that his team will have everything — their ability, their heart, their character — questioned if they fall short again.

As for the players actually entrusted with the job of getting back to a first final since that day in May of 2016, there’s genuine confusion over why their ‘gaffer’ hasn’t been recognised for the job done at Easter Road.

Christian Doidge, reacting to Ross failing to feature in Manager of the Year discussion­s, admitted: ‘I saw that pop up on Twitter and I was a bit baffled by that.

‘He has been fantastic. When you think where we were last season, and what we have done this year — we are close to breaking a lot of records for the football club.

‘He has given debuts to lads like Josh Doig, he has brought in Kevin Nisbet, who has done fantastic this year. I think we have been quite a good team to watch.

‘So it was very strange. But I don’t think it’s something he really looks at too much. He just fully focuses on Hibs getting third and trying to win a cup.

‘There is definitely a winning mentality at the football club. We’ve got lads who have won the cup before. They know what it takes to do that.

‘If we had those positive results all the time, I’m sure people wouldn’t be speaking about it like that.

‘We’ve got lads from all over the country who have had promotions. That has been one of our strengths this year, the dressing room and the mentality of the lads.’

If Ross being slighted for recognitio­n matters little in the dressing room at East Mains, Doidge seemed genuinely confused by former Hibs great John Collins recently suggesting that striker Nisbet doesn’t do enough hard work for his team-mates.

As the target man who regularly partners the summer signing from Dunfermlin­e, combining with Martin Boyle in an attacking trio closing in on 50 goals for the season, Doidge doesn’t buy it. ‘I definitely think that’s harsh,’ said the Welshman. ‘He has been great for us this season. ‘You just need to look at the stats after the game in terms of highspeed running and how far he has run around the pitch. He is up there with the majority of the lads.

‘He’s definitely not someone who slacks or is lazy. He works extremely hard for the team.

‘He has created a lot of chances for himself from his work ethic. He wouldn’t have had the amount of goals he has had this season without that.

‘He has been great to play with this season. We have played up front a lot this year and I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

‘He has created a lot of chances for me. I have created a lot of chances for him. He’s great guy as well.

‘He wouldn’t be in the Scotland set-up if he didn’t have that work ethic. I know that’s what the manager at national level wants.’

Between them, the front three of Doidge, Nisbet and Boyle have combined to make most defences look a bit foolish at times.

Nisbet has found the net 17 times in all competitio­ns, with Boyle bagging 15 and Doidge scoring 11. ‘I think we do complement each other,’ said Doidge. ‘We have done a bit of rotation as well. Martin has played up front, I’ve been out of the team and so has Nizzy. ‘Martin playing out wide has that electric pace that can cause havoc for any defender in the league. He has been outstandin­g this year. ‘It’s Kev’s first year in the Scottish Premiershi­p. No one really knew how he was going to handle it. Would he come in straight away and score a hatful of goals? ‘Kev has got that instinct in front of goal, with the low back-lift. He can score from any kind of angle. I’m just here to support those lads and try to get a few goals myself. ‘This is definitely going to be a game that’s about how the attackers do.’

“It was very strange but the manager isn’t bothered by it. He puts all his focus on Hibs”

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 ??  ?? Omitted: Doidge (left) thinks Ross and Nisbet (inset) merit more plaudits fpr work at Easter Road
Omitted: Doidge (left) thinks Ross and Nisbet (inset) merit more plaudits fpr work at Easter Road

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