Alan Stubbs today insisted he won’t be heading to Tynecastle for his first Edinburgh derby tomorrow simply hoping for a draw, declaring: “That’s not my style.”
But while revealing his players have spent the last three or four days working on where he feels they can “hurt” Hearts, the Hibs head coach admitted he’d rather be on the pitch than sitting in the away dug-out.
Although he’s a veteran of 19 Old Firm matches, ten Merseyside derbies and even the one Tyne-Wear clash between Sunderland and Newcastle, Stubbs agreed that as far as Hibs and Hearts fans are concerned, their clash outshines any other, claiming it will even take centre stage ahead of the Edinburgh Festival.
The atmosphere in Gorgie will be red-hot, the game a sell-out with many believing the Jambos will come out on top as they did in four of the five such matches last season, while Robbie Neilson’s players and their supporters will be buoyed by their opening day victory over Rangers at Ibrox.
However, Stubbs believes that expectation brings a pressure of its own to bear on those in maroon although he expects Tynecastle to be as he remembers it from his days with Celtic, a tough arena where the vociferous home fans are right on top of the opposition players.
He does, though, back his players to cope with the intimidating spectacle which will confront them, adding: “The onus will be on Hearts, they’re at home, the expectation will be on them and we’re going there to hopefully throw a spanner in the works and get a result.”
Stubbs repeated his view that an unwarranted degree of negativity has engulfed Hibs, with too many dwelling on the traumas of last season rather than moving on and working towards a brighter future as, he insisted, he and his players have done.
He said: “For me the negative is outside, there is nothing in the dressingroom. If you look at everyone’s perception it’s Rangers top, Hearts second and Hibs third.
“If they see it going that way, that’s fine. We’re quite happy to sit under the radar and quietly but confidently do our own thing.
“What happened last season I can’t affect, but I will be certainly be looking to affect what happens this season.”
Contented with his own side’s promising start to the season, beaten only in extra-time by Rangers in the Petrofac Training Cup after having had Danny Handling sent off before notching victory on the opening day of the season against Livingston, Stubbs is well aware of what is at stake tomorrow.
He said: “In the broad light it’s a normal game, but in the fans’ eyes it is not. The most we can win is three points, but I know and you know that it’s the bragging rights.
“It’s big from a supporters’ point of view and we’ll have 3000 fans that want to come away with a positive result.
“Whichever derby you are part of, in your own fans’ eyes, it’s the biggest and this is no different.
“Tomorrow there will be only one derby that matters and it takes centre stage ahead of the festival for an hour-and-a-half.
“Every derby game is different. I’ve been involved in some, I’ve gone into them on the back of winning five games and then suddenly you get a defeat. A lot of the time the form goes out of the window and it’s whoever deals with the whole situation the best. Who handles the pressure and who is the bravest.
“More often than not it’s the team that keeps their heads, sometimes there are games where you have a little bit of luck. It will be the ones that can control their emotions, keep everything in check, be very professional and not be afraid of winning the game.
“I think sometimes you can be afraid of losing, take that fear out of it and think about the excitement of winning. I’m not going to go there, put ten men behind the ball and hope for a draw, that’s not my style.
“Go and play, take the game to Hearts.”