While Hibs supporters will be wary of the proximity of the all-important Capital derby after witnessing their team’s ability to collapse in spectacular style against Kilmarnock, fans’ favourite Ivan Sproule insists the SPL visit of St Mirren that precedes the all-Edinburgh clash at Tynecastle is the only game on his mind.
Hearts would have been the first name any Hibby looked for when their club’s fixtures were released before the start of the season, but a cross-town trip to Gorgie – such as that Hibs will face a week on Sunday – would be one of the last on their wishlist on the back of poor form, with a repeat of the 4-1 defeat suffered at Rugby Park the nightmare scenario.
St Mirren travel to Easter Road on Saturday after seeing their own unbeaten start to the season ended by a home defeat to table-topping Motherwell. And for Sproule, the opportunity for Hibs to atone for their Ayrshire horror show can not arrive quickly enough.
“You put it behind you and you’ve got to look forward,” said Sproule of the loss to Killie. “You’ve always got the next game to put it right. There’s a bit of growing up to be done from [the defeat].
“I haven’t even got the derby in my head yet. The St Mirren game, to me, is more important than the Hearts one at the minute.
“It is a big game. Our last home game was against Sunderland and everything we did well against them, we didn’t do on Sunday. It’s back to the training ground, get the game plan worked out against St Mirren. We’ll be looking to cut out the mistakes and be a bit more of a force going forward.”
The Northern Irish winger hopes a positive result against the Buddies can act as a springboard to his first-ever triumph at Tynecastle. Sproule played in three derbies in Gorgie during his first stint at Hibs, but endured some heavy defeats on the scale of Sunday’s resounding loss to Killie.
He argues that joining a club like the one to which he returned earlier this summer comes with a degree of expectation, standards that those in green and white did not come close to reaching in their last outing. Sproule, one of the more experienced players in the Easter Road ranks, is too honest a professional not to own up to a poor personal display.
“When you’re playing for a club of Hibernian’s stature, you’re going to come under scrutiny from fans, coaches, whoever it is, and [against Kilmarnock] the performance just wasn’t acceptable,” said the 30-year-old.
“I can only offer my voice [to the younger players]. I’m the first to put my hand up if I make a mistake myself. I will always put myself in the frame to be shot at if I do something wrong. The boys will have to do the same themselves.”
Sproule recognises a sufficient supply of resilience among his team mates to help the Hibees bounce back from tough results such as that at the weekend. He is relishing his second spell at the club – especially after a frustrating spell at Bristol City and on loan at Notts County prior to his move back north – and feels he can contribute greatly to a successful season.
“It’s great to be back and playing,” he said. “I’m finding my legs, and I need to get the ball in the box and create opportunities – and I feel I’m doing that.
“I think if we can just stay in games a bit longer, we’ll take these chances and push on. I hope I can make this season a good one. I’m not going to shy away from the fact that it’s going to be a tough season for us, but it’s one every player in the changing room is up for.”
Following an opening-day defeat by Celtic, Hibs will view as a boost the fact they do not face another Old Firm clash until the beginning of October, when they visit Rangers. The here and now is all about building momentum ahead of the derby, with the St Mirren match followed by a home tie in the Scottish Communities League Cup against Berwick Rangers a week today.