Hibs boss Terry Butcher today insisted his Easter Road squad was more together than ever as they bid to end their woeful run with a derby day win.
Since beating Hearts at the start of January, the Hibees have faltered badly, winning just one of their 14 Scottish Premiership matches, the last five having all ended in defeat.
That form threatens to drag his side into a relegation play-off battle but, as he and his players prepared for the return of the Gorgie club for tomorrow’s lunchtime start, Butcher was adamant they are up for the fight.
The Hibs boss has noticed an extra edge and determination in training in a week which began with Ben Williams claiming the team was “soft and spoiled.”
Butcher, though, had no complaints about his goalkeeper’s outburst, insisting he’s had the response he was looking for as manager – particularly from his senior players.
He said: “Ben didn’t miss, he was very honest. I think some of Thommo’s [Kevin Thomson] quotes this week have been very good as well, about sticking the chest out and showing more pride. That’s terrific.
“From the senior players we I’ve had a terrific response. From everybody, really, but particularly from the senior ones because I think they are looking at this game and saying ‘let’s lead from the front’.
“The senior players are doing just that when it comes to the training and everything else. They’ve got to take that forward now into the game.”
And far from being soft, Butcher claimed he’s seen his players ready to kick their way into tomorrow’s team, the manager having settled on his starting line-up which won’t contain defender James McPake following his return to action with the club’s Under-20 side in midweek following a six-month absence.
He said: “You can’t be soft in derby matches, that’s for sure – and we won’t be. In the preparations this week, you can sense it’s a derby game straight away. There’s an eagerness, a desire and a spring in players’ steps. In a way, there’s no need for motivation for this one. If you’re not up for a derby match, with the circumstances surrounding this one, you will never be.
“You do sense an uptake in intensity. If you look at the way they’ve gone about their work, it’s been very enjoyable. It’s been loud, which is great, because it probably hasn’t been in the past. I’ve been very pleased.
“We’re all very much focused and we’re all together, probably more so now than ever before. It’s probably taken a poor run and the fact it’s a derby match to get everybody really together.”