FIVE years ago tomorrow, Hibs brought the League Cup back to Edinburgh. Now Rob Jones, the indestructible captain and scorer of the opening goal on that momentous day in 2007, is hoping his old club can conjure another memorable March 18 as they head to Tynecastle aiming to end their nine-game run without victory over Hearts.
Jones, whose successful three-year spell at Easter Road ended in 2009, will never forget that sensational day in the south Glasgow snow when Hibs thrashed Kilmarnock 5-1 in front of more than 30,000 jubilant Hibbies.
Ahead of another huge game for the Easter Road club, the ex-Hibs skipper took great delight in recalling the greatest day of his career. “It was the biggest game I’d ever played in and that remains the case today – it was fantastic,” said Jones, who is currently aiding Sheffield Wednesday’s bid to win promotion from League One. “Being captain of the side and then scoring the first goal in a 5-1 win in a cup final, it doesn’t get much better than that. I don’t think anyone could have expected the game to go any better, although we could probably have expected the weather to be better because it snowed pretty much all game.
“The bus journey went by so quickly on the way back from Glasgow but all the boys were in full voice, as you would expect. Then we went on the open-top bus down to the ground, and the amount of people out on the streets that night to thank us was just fantastic. It was incredible to see how much the result affected so many people. The night seemed to go in a blur but it was the type of occasion that never leaves you. My children are three and five and I’ve had them watching the DVD, and I’ve still got the posters and the match programme.”
Jones gained hero status in the eyes of Hibs fans, not just for leading them to League Cup glory, but also because he was such an influential member of a side that more than held its own against their bitter city rivals during his time in Edinburgh. Incredibly, Hibs haven’t beaten Hearts since Jones left the club, although he sat out their last derby success – a 1-0 win at Tynecastle in May 2009. A winning goal over Hearts en route to the 2007 League Cup triumph allied to involvement in the 1-0 victory at Tynecastle on the opening night of the 2007-08 SPL season means Jones has more reason than most currently at Easter Road to regard the Edinburgh derby in a positive light. He said: “In my time we had a good few victories, a couple of draws and a few defeats, so it was a bit of a mixed bag. The one that sticks out is the night I scored the winner in the League Cup game – and it wasn’t a header for once! It was one of John Collins’ first games in charge and we played very well that night.
“The Edinburgh derbies were always great games to play in and you really looked forward to them. In the week leading up to it there was a different buzz about Edinburgh and around the training ground. Regardless of whether it was at Easter Road or Tynecastle, the atmosphere was always intense. The fans are much closer to the pitch at Tynecastle than they are at Easter Road, but I enjoyed the banter – it made you want to win the game that bit more. I remember we won there on the opening night of the season when Brian Kerr scored. That was another great night.”
A desire to return to England may have led Jones down to Sheffield Wednesday, via Scunthorpe, but he retains a keen interest in the fortunes of the club that gave him his big break in football when Tony Mowbray brought him north from Grimsby Town.
Having watched from afar as his old club have shown signs of progress under Pat Fenlon, Jones senses Hibs are ready to end their near-three-year search for a derby victory tomorrow. “My time at Hibs was a special period in my life,” he continues. “They put me on the map in football terms. If it wasn’t for Hibs, I wouldn’t be where I am now, playing for my boyhood club. I won’t get to see the derby as I will be training, but I always look out for their results. They had a good win at Ayr and the new players will be starting to adjust, so hopefully they have turned the corner. The current team are definitely capable of getting a result at Tynecastle. There’s a bit of experience in the Hibs team now so I’ve got no doubt they can get something from the game.”