THE season continues to hold Hibernian to account like a pillory.
The Edinburgh club are locked in the bottom half of the SPFL Premiership table and have been a target for any manner of public derision which anyone has cared to fling their way. They have been called "soft" and "spoiled" by individuals within their own squad, and no doubt plenty more by their own supporters.
A visit of Partick Thistle tomorrow could force the Easter Road club into an awkward position as well since they are only a point above the Championship play-off place, with Kilmarnock to play relegated Hearts on Sunday. It is an unsettling prospect that applies to Thistle, too, although it is telling that the Glasgow side are not being sized up for 11th place yet Hibs seem tailor-made this year.
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The expectation that the Edinburgh side need only be waved at tomorrow as Thistle make their way above them in the table is not endorsed by Alan Archibald.
"Everybody is writing them off this week, Hibs, and it's always a worry playing against a team like that," said the Thistle manager. "We will be on our guard and there was a lot of determination shown by Hibs last week and I'm sure it will be the same this week, probably even more so with the amount of pressure everybody has been putting on them."
Archibald is in a position to comment on the mentality of the Hibs squad as he has witnessed at close quarters how Terry Butcher works with a squad vulnerable to external pressures. The Hibernian manager was recruited at Firhill in 2007 to work as assistant alongside caretaker manager Jimmy Bone, with Archibald still a senior player. "It was a short time but you could see the standards Terry had, the way he wanted to do things. He was meticulous in his planning, his preparation. I enjoyed working with him. Terry is dying to get his own players in there [Hibs] and you can see that. He has had to deal with egos and injuries and different things."
The Thistle manager has his own worries - fresh injuries risk robbing him of three first-team regulars - but it was the the long-term health benefits for his club that he was most concerned with. "You just have to look at St Johnstone, I think they are the benchmark for teams like us," said Archibald. "They have each been up [in the top flight] for a few years now and that lets you go out and build on what you've got already. If you can stay up for a couple of years then players will come and pledge their futures to you."