Terry Butcher believes the “stark reality” of having become embroiled in a battle to avoid the relegation play-off spot will act as a wake-up call for his under-pressure Hibs stars
Having targeted a place in the Scottish Premiership’s top six only a few weeks ago, the Easter Road club have slowly but surely been reeled in by those below them and, after a fifth successive defeat, now lie only three points above the danger zone.
A much superior goal difference has also been eroded, with Butcher’s players having scored just once in their last six games, while only one win in 14 league matches has left Hibs fans, with a derby against Hearts on Sunday, wondering where their next victory will come from.
The Hibs boss, pictured left, said: “We’ve been seven points ahead, then six, now three. We know the stark reality of the situation we are in. We’ve got four games left and it will come down to whoever wants it most.
“We have to dig a win up from somewhere. It’s my job to do that and for everyone to rally round.”
Having sat down with his players for a re-run of the defeat by St Mirren, Butcher insisted his “depression” had now lifted, with the focus being entirely on Sunday when, as he is well aware, a packed Hearts end will be hoping to see the already-relegated Gorgie club pull their arch-rivals ever closer to danger.
Butcher, though, remains confident, saying: “All that matters to us, all I am concerned about, is what we do on the pitch. We want to please our fans more than anything else. We’re working hard on how we want to play, getting a good week’s training in and looking to repeat our 2-1 win here at home in January and it’s that sort of performance that’s required.”
The return to action of James McPake after six months out will give Butcher some food for thought. The 29-year-old is desperate to play having scored in Hibs Under-20s’ 3-3 draw with Dunfermline on Tuesday, although the manager is already on the record stating he won’t gamble with the fitness of either the big defender or midfielder Scott Robertson, who is back in full training after a three months absence.
McPake said: “I’d loved to have played in the derby four weeks after my back operation, never mind this one.
“I’ve trained solidly for five weeks, I woke up the day after the Under-20 game and felt great. I’ve not encountered any problems so I will train for the rest of the week with the first team and whatever is to happen will happen.”
Butcher, already without centre-half Paul Hanlon and striker Paul Heffernan for the rest of the season, has made several changes to his starting line-up in each of Hibs’ recent matches in a bid to find that elusive winning formula, with his plans not helped by Danny Haynes, Alan Maybury and Ryan McGivern having been hit by suspensions.
However, he’s keeping his plans for Sunday a closely guarded secret, saying: “We might make changes, we might not. The most important thing is we have 11 out there who are really up for the game and will give everything to the cause.”