Hibs new boy Danny Haynes today revealed he’s set to make his Easter Road debut three years later than expected.
The 26-year-old was in the Barnsley side which had travelled to the Capital for a pre-season friendly, only to find the match cancelled an hour before kick-off.
Torrential rain, with the promise of more to come, had left the pitch unplayable, leaving referee Stevie O’Reilly with no option but to call off the match, although the two clubs did manage to stage a “bounce” game at Hibs’ East Mains training centre.
Now Haynes has his fingers crossed there will be no repeat of that July debacle in the middle of February as he prepares to pull on a green-and-white shirt for the first time as Terry Butcher’s stars face Championship outfit Raith Rovers in the Scottish Cup fifth round.
Signed on loan from English League One side Notts County for the rest of the season, hit-man Haynes said: “I think I got a wee inkling of what the Scottish weather could be like that day – it isn’t often you hear of a pre-season match in the middle of summer cancelled because of rain.
“We were all looking forward to playing that day. I think everyone in the Barnsley party had been very impressed by the stadium and we were surprised when the ref called it off only an hour before kick-off.
“But we went down to the training ground and played there and, again, all our boys were taken aback by the facilities the Hibs players had and having now joined the club they are exactly as I remember them, truly excellent.”
Haynes has had a week to acclimatise himself to his change of surroundings, having joined Sunderland’s Duncan Watmore and Arsenal’s Daniel Boateng in agreeing loan deals with Butcher – the former Ipswich Town, Bristol City and Charlton star joked that he has always got his mittens handy – but admits tomorrow’s match will be a step into the unknown.
Freely confessing he “doesn’t have a clue” about Raith, he said: “It’s all very much a new experience, a new club, a different competition, opposition I’ve never faced before, but it’s something I am looking forward to.
“I honestly don’t know anything about Raith Rovers – not even where they come from – but it’s a cup tie and these sort of games are always a potential banana skin for team in the top league playing a side from a lower division. Raith will be the under-dogs – they’ve nothing to lose – while we will be expected to win which means there’s more pressure on us.
“The fact I don’t know anything about Raith and don’t know any of their players isn’t, as far as I am concerned, a problem. It’s all about what we do. It’s up to us to make sure we are professional and that each of us does our job correctly. I’ll be preparing as I do for any other match and I’ll be ready.”
Haynes doesn’t know, as yet, whether he or any of the other new arrivals will be involved, accepting Butcher has something of a balancing act to conduct with the fans as desperate to see his January signings in action as the players themselves are to be given a chance to impress them, while also being conscious of his primary objective, fielding a side which will prove capable of taking Hibs into the last eight of the competition.
With Hearts, Ross County, Motherwell, Kilmarnock and Partick Thistle already out, two more Premiership sides are facing a definite exit at this stage as Celtic take on Aberdeen and Dundee United face St Mirren, while the quarter-final draw will also contain at least three teams from the lower leagues.
League One sides Rangers face Dunfermline at Ibrox tonight, with fellow Championship clubs Alloa and Dumbarton also clashing, while League Two Albion Rovers are at home to Stenhousemuir of League One which, depending on the luck of the draw, could present a gilt-edged opportunity for further progress.
Like any newcomer to Easter Road Haynes has, unsurprisingly, been acquainted with Hibs Scottish Cup history, but he countered being reminded they’ve been without that particular trophy since 1902 with the fact they’ve contested the last two finals.
He said: “It would be some achievement to make three finals in a row, but it is do-able. I’m sure people are looking at who is left in the cup, the ties to be played over this weekend and thinking it could open up nicely for someone. But we have to concentrate on what happens tomorrow. If we take care of ourselves then the draw for the next round will take care of itself and we’d take whoever we were to get.
“Until we get to that stage, though, our full focus has to be on taking care of Raith.”
Despite the obvious danger of being on the wrong end of a cup upset, Haynes insisted his optimism is based on the quality of Butcher’s squad, admitting that many of his new team-mates are almost as much a stranger to him as the Raith players will be tomorrow.
He said: “I know Liam Craig from our time together as youngsters at Ipswich and I’ve played against the likes of Ryan McGivern and Kevin Thomson in England, but I didn’t know of some of the young lads who are breaking through here at the moment, guys like Alex Harris, Sam Stanton, Jordon Forster and Jason Cummings.
“We’ve definitely got some decent young players coming through along with the great experience many others have and, hopefully, we’ll prove to have too much on the day for Raith.”
Hibs fans are reminded tomorrow’s match has a 2pm kick-off with Scotland facing England in the Calcutta Cup at Murrayfield later in the day.