ANOTHER all-Edinburgh Scottish Cup tie gives Hibs an instant chance to atone for May’s annihilation at Hampden Park. Or does it? Those involved in Hearts’ historic 5-1 victory in the final of last season’s competition beg to differ.
“It’s a good fixture for Hibs because it’s a great chance to get some so-called revenge. But I don’t know if that game could ever be avenged,” said Stephen Elliott, the Irish forward whose final act at Tynecastle was to play in Hearts’ greatest ever triumph. “You couldn’t take that day away from all the Hearts fans. It was the biggest cup final in the history of the two clubs.”
A rematch of sorts, albeit in the fourth round instead of the final, brings heightened anticipation just six months since the maroon half of Edinburgh claimed the ultimate derby bragging rights. Tables have turned slightly since then, with Hibs currently joint top of the Scottish Premier League and Hearts languishing in ninth place. Psychology will play a big part at Easter Road next month, and that could be to the visitors’ advantage. Not since May 2009 have Hibs defeated their oldest rivals.
“Hibs are going quite well this season so they’ll probably be a little bit more confident this time,” said Elliott, now with Coventry City. “I think the lads at Hearts have really stepped up to the challenge in the bigger games over the last while.
“To be honest, given the history, it wouldn’t surprise me if Hearts beat them again.
“There are players in the Hearts squad with a lot of experience of winning big derbies, and a lot of the boys are still there from the cup final. Hibs are top of the league and will be thinking there’s no better chance to get revenge for the cup final, but I don’t think the Hearts lads will be worried about it too much. They have experience in abundance with guys like Andy Webster, Marius Zaliukas, Danny Grainger and Ryan McGowan at the back. That’s the cup final defence and they’re very strong.
“It’s a big ask for Hibs to get one over on this Hearts team. Hibs have got to win a derby some time. If ever they feel they have a chance, it will be this time. Leigh Griffiths is scoring a lot of goals and they are confident, but the bigger the game, the more the Hearts lads will rise to the challenge.”
Players and coaches have changed since May, with Paulo Sergio, Sergio Cruz and Alberto Cabral replaced by John McGlynn and Edgaras Jankauskas. Gary Locke is the only link between the two. McGlynn drew his first derby at Easter Road in August and is eager to return there with the added edge of a knockout cup competition.
“There’s no doubt Hibs have a far better team this year, everyone would need to be blind not to notice that,” he said candidly. “We have a month to get ourselves closer to the top of the table. We’re looking to do that and go into the cup tie against Hibs with confidence.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Scottish Cup tie against Hibs or Celtic or Deveronvale. We need to be winning games and to do that we need to be scoring goals. We don’t want to be where we are, we want to be winning regularly. If we are scoring goals then we will be in a better position by the time the cup tie comes round.
“Playing Hibs is a great game for us. It’ll be the tie that all the television companies will want, it’ll be centre stage and it’s where players want to play. It’s also where I want to be managing, in a big game like this. We won’t lose our focus on the league games beforehand but I can’t wait for the cup tie to come round. It’s a very attractive tie, the tie of the round, and all eyes will be on us. I’m sure it will attract a big, big audience.
“Some of our younger players got a taste of Easter Road earlier in the season and this tie will be a great experience for whoever plays in it. The players are all brought up playing in these derby games at the various age groups, but nothing like the real thing at first-team level. This one is a Scottish Cup tie and it’s a great stage for everyone.”