There’s no getting away from it – Wednesday’s game against Hibs is absolutely massive for Hearts.
It’s not often we go into a showdown with our local rivals having not won any of the previous six derbies. In addition, our league campaign is in real danger of fizzling out after a disappointing run over the last two or three months.
Saturday’s display against Inverness was really disappointing after our two previous Premiership results and it’s left us well adrift of Aberdeen and with St Johnstone closing in on us once more.
What happens on Wednesday will now determine the mood going forward. If we get past Hibs, everything will be rosy in the garden and we’ll have renewed optimism for the rest of the campaign. But if we don’t, there will be a big fallout and it will make for a difficult last few months of the season. This can either be a game to kick us on, or it can be the one that breaks the camel’s back.
We only have to look at the lingering effect last year’s defeat by Hibs had on the mood around Hearts to see how important Wednesday is.
When the two teams are in the same league, there’s always a chance to put things right a couple of months later, but when you’re only meeting in a one-off cup tie, it means that whoever wins gets to keep the bragging rights for longer, and the team who lose has longer to stew. The fact we’ve had last February’s defeat hanging over us, to some extent, means there’s a need for us to put things right, by hook or by crook, this Wednesday.
With that in mind, I want to see genuine passion from the Hearts players. Yes, it’s about being calm, composed and assured. But, with so much emphasis on tactics, formations and preparation, I feel the ability to simply be fired up has been lacking from Hearts in recent Edinburgh derbies. For me, passion is still a crucial factor, particularly in such a traditionally scrappy fixture.
I saw us as hot favourites going into the first game at Tynecastle, but we didn’t replicate the aggressive approach we showed against Rangers. I genuinely can’t call how the replay’s going to go. All I know is that we’re going to need some fire in our bellies if we’re to redress our recent derby record and bring fresh impetus to our campaign.