Hibs’ Graham Stack’s got inside track on Dons

Graham Stack

Graham Stack

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GRAHAM STACK probably knows as much about the Aberdeen side he’ll face tomorrow as the most ardent of Dons supporters.

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The Hibs keeper played in the same team as a number of the current Pittodrie squad during his time in England and is more than familiar with a few others thanks to his loan moves around the lower leagues.

At Plymouth, he played with Rory Fallon and Chris Clark, while Kari Arnason joined just after he left the club. He’s hoping that inside knowledge will help give Hibs the edge in their quest to reach the Scottish Cup final come May.

Stack, however, insisted that he cannot afford to be too caught up in what the opposition are going to do and instead must focus on his own game.

He said: “They are a very well-organised side and they don’t give a lot away. I know quite a bit about them because I have played in the same team as a couple of their lads and I know some others from being down south.

“I’ve played alongside Rory Fallon and Chris Clark, I know Scott Vernon from being down in England.

“Kari Arnason was signed by Plymouth just after I left but I know a lot about him too. They’re all quality players so I know that Aberdeen are a good side – and they are all players who are capable of turning a game around.

“But at the same time we have got good players here who can do exactly the same.

“I know what I am going to be up against but I can’t focus on what they are going to do, I have to look at my own game and concentrate on that.

“They are a club steeped in tradition, just like us, and a win tomorrow would turn their season around just like it would for us.

“They are in a similar position as us because they are looking to the cup to give them a sense of achievement too.”

The former Arsenal stopper goes into tomorrow’s game in fine form, having helped his side to a battling 3-2 win over Inverness a fortnight ago and a share of the spoils against Motherwell last weekend.

The trip to the Caledonian Stadium, in particular, saw Stack keep his side in the match in the first half with three top-drawer saves and he admitted that he has been pleased with the way that the last few weeks have panned out.

“It’s always satisfying for me as a keeper to play my part because we usually get forgotten about,” he said.

“It’s great to be able to make saves at crucial times in a game to give your team the impetus to go on and win the game.

“In recent weeks, I have been fairly pleased with the way that things have gone and you’re just hoping to stay fit and as consistent as you possibly can on a weekly basis to a) stay in the side and b) improve your game.”

Stack’s contribution is bound to be crucial again tomorrow as the last two meetings between the sides have produced just one goal over the 270 minutes.

“We got beaten up at Pittodrie thanks to a penalty which was a bit dubious to say the least, and we drew 0-0 with them at Easter Road (twice), so there haven’t been many goals between the two sides lately,” he said.

“We know that it will probably be the same again tomorrow and neither side will want to give anything away.”

Hibs’ history in the competition has been well documented and Stack admitted that he would love to be part of the side who finally bring their 110-year barren spell to an end.

Stack has been part of cup semi-finals for Arsenal, as well as their Champions League matches, but admitted that the game at Hampden will still be a huge occasion for him.

He’s hoping that Hibs can make the most of the opportunity ahead of them.

He continued: “The game this weekend is a massive for me.

“You’re one step closer to actually winning it, you’ve just 180 minutes away.

“Getting to this stage is a great achievement for us but, as we all know, the semi-finalists get forgotten about very quickly, it’s all about who wins the cup at the end of the day.

“Because of the way things have gone in this competition for the club, the pressure gets more and more with every year that goes by. The only way that we can put that to bed is to go out there and win it.

“No matter what round you’re in, or who you’re playing – be it Ayr United or Cowdenbeath or whoever – there is always that stigma surrounding the club and this competition.

“It would be great to rid ourselves of that tag and it would be a shame, now that we’ve got to this stage, if we fell at the final hurdle.”

It’s not only personal pride and a desire to bring the Scottish Cup hoodoo to an end that drives Stack to finally get his hands on the silverware.

The goalkeeper has been stung by some of the criticism that has come Hibs’ way throughout this campaign.

He admits that many of their performances have been below the standard that they would have liked and that some of the flak has been justified but he would love nothing more than to force the doubters to eat their words.

“We have had a lot of critics over the last while, some of the supporters, pundits, former players and anyone else who has wanted to take a pop.

“In all honesty, can’t deny that some of it has been justified because the league table doesn’t lie at the end of the day.

“Some of our performances have not been good enough and neither have the results – but that’s not to say that we haven’t been gutted or upset ourselves.

“It’s about us as a group of players and the management staff. We have got to be very united and be as one and we’ve all got to buy into the same thing. We know that we have underachieved as a group and we’ve had to pick ourselves up.

“In that respect it’s been great to have the cup to give us a bit of a break from the league and to give us something to look forward to.

“All of the criticism that we’ve had has to be put to one side. At the end of the day, we are the only people who can go out there and change their opinions.

“If we don’t, then we are just giving them more ammunition to criticise us.”

Hibs manager Pat Fenlon had suggested that fear or nerves were the reason Hibs have started slowly in games over recent months but, if there are any nerves about the cup clash within the Hibs’ squad, Stack certainly isn’t showing them. He’s desperate for kick-off to come around so that he and his team-mates can set about turning the history books on their head.

He said: “I can’t wait for the game to come around. There’s been a real buzz around the training ground and it’s been great to be out and about in the city to get the buzz from the fans as well.

“We all know the history about the cup and Hibs so we know what a big occasion it is going to be. We have got the semi-finals to deal with first and foremost and we know that it is going to be a very tough game. Aberdeen are a well-organised side and a physical side.

“Since the game at the weekend we have been focused on this tie and we want to do ourselves justice.”