The relief at securing our SPL status was there for all to see when the third goal went into the back of the Dunfermline net last Monday evening after just 14 minutes of play. I don’t think any Hibs supporter could have envisaged a start like the one we made, with the match effectively over after only a quarter of an hour.
The goal also relieved all the tension from the players, management and supporters of Hibernian Football Club, where we could all sit back and enjoy our last home game of the season.
When a big performance was required, the side rose to the challenge and went about the task with great professionalism. It would have given the players a huge lift to have emerged from the tunnel and see such a big turnout from the Hibs fans, which also underlined the potential this club has with attracting crowds through the turnstiles. It has been a long time since I have witnessed the stadium filled with such positivity. However, I have said in the past that until Easter Road becomes a venue our opponents fear, we still have a good bit to do. If the players enjoyed the noise generated from the stands last Monday evening, they haven’t seen anything yet if things go according to plan on Saturday.
The one worry I did hold was that Dunfermline would also relish the occasion and atmosphere, but thankfully after an explosive opening spell, the men from Fife were left with a mountain to climb as we looked assured and confident in our all round game. However, we can’t escape from what has been a hugely disappointing season in the SPL. We managed only two wins at home from the 19 played and that figure is simply not acceptable.
Many clubs have experienced similar league campaigns to our own this season and I just hope we have learned some valuable lessons. We must put the correct components in place to ensure our performances in the league improve and we don’t become involved in a situation like this again. We have allowed ourselves to fall into such a downward spiral over the past few seasons and this cannot be repeated.
If I am being honest, Saturday’s defeat to Inverness wasn’t too much of a surprise. The manager rightly chose to keep a number of his players under wraps ahead of the final, opting to hand some of his fringe players an opportunity to stake a late claim. The week that lies ahead is what all footballers dream of, the realisation that you’re about to play in a match where eyes from around the world are upon you and a Cup winners medal is within your grasp. The sleepless nights will now begin as the weight on both sets of players’ shoulders in this derby cannot be measured. The emotions, history and rivalry will all be part of this special day as east heads west to Hampden.
The players have ventured across the Irish Sea to Dublin in hope of escaping some of the hype here within the city. I think this should stand the players in good stead where they can relax and unwind after a day’s training with little interruption. There have been a lot of outside influences that have led to such a poisonous atmosphere at derbies in the past but I can only hope that both set of supporters enjoy the moment and take in everything that goes with this incredible fixture. As with any final, there has to be a losing side and I’m sure every supporter of both Hibs and Hearts will experience one of the most uncomfortable 90 minutes of their lives, wherever they take in the match on Saturday.
The excitement can really begin now and the anticipation will grow day by day. My own thoughts on the match are now beginning to surface and I believe the side who handles the occasion best will have every chance of lifting the Cup come full-time as the fear of defeat will either make or break this special moment in Edinburgh’s football history.