Alan Maybury has seen the Edinburgh derby from both sides – and he’s desperate not to see what has become Scotland’s biggest club match disappear.
Old Firm clashes are something of the past following Rangers’ financial meltdown and demotion to the Third Division and now the Capital fixture itself is under threat as Hearts battle to keep afloat after this week’s revelation they have only days to meet a £450,000 tax demand or face closure.
As such, a question mark hangs over the much-anticipated William Hill Scottish Cup showdown between Hibs and Hearts – a repeat of May’s final at Hampden – which is due to be played on the first Sunday in December. But today 34-year-old Maybury insisted he and his team-mates have their fingers crossed that their closest rivals will survive and pitch up at Easter Road that day.
He said: “The Edinburgh derby is the biggest game in Scotland now – although I’m sure the Dundee clubs would have something to say about that. It’s a big game and people want to see it. So it’s important for Scottish football it stays.
“It’s good for the city and if we’re competing at the right end of the table as well then it’s much the better for everyone.”
And Maybury expressed the wish that Hearts’ latest difficulties can be resolved as quickly as possible. He said: “We had a situation with Rangers last season where everything just dragged on and on and created instability. We’ve just come through that, we don’t need to go through it again. Hopefully whatever is going on there gets sorted out quickly.
“I know they’ve gone to the wire a couple of times and have come through so hopefully that happens again. Scottish football needs it, the league needs it and the city needs it so hopefully it’s not as bad as has been reported.
“Of course we want them to be around. When the draw happened a lot of the lads felt it was inevitable. Everyone is looking forward to it but we’ve a couple of tough games in the meantime and it will take care of itself when we get to it.”
Although he spent four years in a maroon shirt, Maybury points out Hearts are a vastly different club to the one he left, the Dublin-born star departing for Leicester City just as the Vladimir Romanov era kicked off with little hint of the rollercoaster years which were to follow.
He said: “Craig Levein left in the November, John Robertson came in and I left in the January. At that time there were just a couple of people who were starting to come in to watch training and different things.
“It was after I left that they kicked on, they put a lot of money in and George Burley came in as manager. As that stage people were asking me if I had got out in time or not. It was good for a while but they have not been able to sustain it and I don’t know the ins and outs anymore.”
While it has become clear Hearts have been living far beyond their means, the latest run-in with HMRC is the most serious threat to the Jambos’ future yet and Maybury revealed he knows first hand the dangers of speculating to accumulate. “I started at Leeds where they chased the dream and they’re still paying that off 15 years down the line. Sometimes you need to be careful what you wish for. It’s all about your resources and what you think is achievable.”
In stark contrast to Hearts’ profligacy, Maybury’s current employers have often been castigated as “penny pinchers” and while, like the rest of Scottish football, Hibs are finding the current economic climate challenging, Maybury said: “No-one is under any illusions that it’s tough. People don’t have money to spend. Contracts are being pared back and I’m lucky to have nicked a one-year deal.
“The lads who have been here a while have nothing but good things to say about the chairman [Rod Petrie]. The club seems to be run right and the facilities are top notch. And it’s just a better working environment.”