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Hibernian: A rough guide

Newcastle United’s penultimate pre-season fixture takes them to Edinburgh, where they will take on Hibernian at Easter Road.

The game on Tuesday, 30th July (7.45pm kick-off) will be the Magpies’ first encounter with Hibs in 35 years, and here, we take a closer look at the Scottish outfit…

LAST SEASON: Last term began with the Hibees competing in the Europa League, having finished in fourth place in the Scottish Premiership in 2017/18. Their European venture began with two-legged victories over Runavík and Asteras Tripolis before a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Molde in the third qualifying round curtailed their progress.

With Neil Lennon in charge at Easter Road, Hibs made a good start domestically, winning five and drawing two of their opening eight league fixtures. That preceded a run of seven games without a win, with consistency seemingly an issue for the Edinburgh side.

Lennon, who had won promotion from the Championship at Easter Road in 2017, was suspended in January with Eddie May taking the reins on a caretaker basis before Paul Heckingbottom was appointed as Lennon’s permanent successor the following month. The former Sunderland, Darlington and Gateshead defender enjoyed a fine start to life in the dugout at his new club as he won six and drew four of his first ten league games in charge – an unbeaten run that lasted from Heckingbottom’s appointment though to May.

Despite that encouraging run, three successive defeats at the end of the season left them in fifth place, 13 points adrift of fourth-placed Aberdeen and European qualification, while their interest in both the Scottish Cup and the Scottish League Cup ended at the quarter-final stage.

THE MANAGER: Paul Heckingbottom is no stranger to north east football, thanks to spells in defence for Sunderland, Hartlepool United, Darlington and Gateshead, and though he amassed plenty of experience during a 16-year playing career – during which he also turned out for the likes of Norwich City, Sheffield Wednesday and Bradford City – his managerial career is still in its infancy.

Thrust into a caretaker role at home-town club Barnsley in both 2015 and 2016, the 41-year-old guided the Tykes to Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and League One play-off final glory before his permanent appointment. He departed Oakwell in February 2018 to join Leeds United, spending four months at Elland Road before being replaced by Marcelo Bielsa.

Since arriving at Hibs in February, Heckingbottom has lost just four of his 14 games in charge.

THE PLAYERS: With a host of players having departed over the summer – including former United midfielder Gael Bigirimana – Hibs currently have a threadbare squad. Israeli international Ofir Marciano is the club’s number one goalkeeper, while defenders Steven Whittaker and captain David Gray both have plenty of experience both sides of the border.

Paul Hanlon and Lewis Stevenson are stalwarts of the Hibs’ first team, with well over 300 appearances for the club apiece, while winger Daryl Horgan is a Republic of Ireland international who faced Newcastle during his time at Preston North End in 2016/17.

Former Celtic midfielder Scott Allan, once of West Bromwich Albion, Portsmouth and Birmingham City among others, signed a pre-contract agreement with Heckingbottom’s side in January, with Swiss forward Florian Kamberi and Australian international Martin Boyle other notable names in the Hibs ranks.

ANYTHING ELSE? The game will be the first time the two sides have met since Jackie McNamara’s testimonial in August 1984, which resulted in a 3-0 victory for the Magpies in the Scottish capital. George Best was among the players to line up for Hibs that day.

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