Andrew Shinnie has long been an armchair fan of the Edinburgh derby – now he can’t wait for the full-on experience of playing in one.
Hibs face a quickfire return to Tynecastle after thumping Bonnyrigg Rose 8-1 last weekend, the Gorgie ground the scene of last season’s epic late fightback from two goals down with ten minutes to play to secure a draw which proved to be a major stepping stone on the way to ending the Easter Road club’s 114 year Scottish Cup hoodoo.
And, while he admitted facing Ian Cathro’s side will be a totally different proposition to playing the East Super League champions, the midfielder revealed he’d love to see the Hibs fans in the Roseburn Stand sent wild with excitement.
He said: “I’ve only seen an Edinburgh derby on television but it’s always a good game to watch and Tynecastle always has a good atmosphere.
“You probably have to play in it to fully appreciate it all, but it does come through on televisiion. I’ve played there a few times with Inverness Caley and they were always great occasions.
“Hibs will bring a lot of fans and Hearts will sell out their bit, so it will be a big game and I’m looking forward to it.”
Shinnie set Hibs on their way to victory over Bonnyrigg, scoring the game’s opening goal after just 11 minutes in front of a crowd of 13,000. But he’s anticipating the decibels being turned up by more than a few notches on Sunday, February 12.
He said: “It’s a bit weird to be going back to Tynecastle for back-to-back cup ties but this will be a totally different game.
“We had an amazing number of fans there and Bonnyrigg had quite a few as well. This time, Hearts will have a lot more of the crowd and it wil be a bit noisier from them.
“But I have seen the Hibs fans in derbies on TV and they are brilliant. When the boys score goals they go mental behind that goal.”
No more so than when Paul Hanlon claimed the equaliser in last season’s 2-2 draw, a moment Shinnie remembers well.
He said: “I don’t know if I watched it live, but I remember the goals. I remember Paul wheeling away when he scored late on and the fans were going crazy. It makes you want to play in it.”
Hearts needed a replay to dispose of Raith Rovers but, Shinnie revealed, he and his team-mates had a hunch that the fifth-round draw would pitch them against their arch-rivals once again.
He said: “We weren’t all together but we obviously all watched the draw and it was always in our minds that it was coming.
“When Raith and Hearts came out I was thinking ‘this is definitely going to be Hibs’ – and then the No.8 ball came out.
“If you want to win the cup you need to beat good teams and Hearts are a good team. Obviously, the other night was a bit touch and go. I was a tough game that could have gone either way.
“If it had been Raith that would have been a tough game as well but it’s Hearts and we’ll go to Tynecastle for what will be a really good cup game.
“I’m just delighted. Hopefully, I’ll get to take part in an Edinburgh derby – it doesn’t get better than that.”
As a summer arrival on loan for the season from Birmingham City, Shinnie has seen at the first hand how winning the Scottish Cup has transformed Easter Road – and he wishes he’d been a part of it all.
He said: “I watched the final and, when Rangers went ahead, I thought they were going to see it out.
“But they’d had a lot of weeks without playing – I think they’d played a young Tottenhad team and that’s not great preparation – while Hibs had been playing and they came on strong.
“I saw Davie’s [skipper David Gray] header in the last minute and, when you watch it, you just wish it was something you were a part of. You wish you were on the pitch and a part of the celebrations afterwards.
“I have seen the boys’ pictures and videos and they tell me stories about it and you listen with envy. Hopefully, I can write my own story with Hibs this year.”
While Hibs may be in the Championship for a third season, Shinnie insisted the exploits of last season – the cup win came only days after Falkirk had ended the Capital club’s hopes of promotion in the play-offs – underlines the strength of character within Neil Lennon’s dressing-room.
The 27-year-old said: “The expectation was for Rangers to win the cup and, when they went 2-1 up, they would have expected to win.
“But fair play to the boys. They deserve all the accolades and praise they have had. They could have buckled and gone out with a whimper and it would have been doom and gloom.
“If they had not got promotion and been beaten in the final it would have been a difficult start to the season. But Rangers lose, Hibs win, the new manager comes to the club and we are flying in the league.”