Paul Heffernan today insisted Hibs are the equal of any side in the Championship, claiming Alan Stubbs’ team will feel no way inferior as they head into the second Edinburgh derby of the season trailing table-topping Hearts by 14 points.
While the Easter Road side have made a stuttering start to the season, Robbie Neilson’s players have swept all before them, dropping just two points from their opening ten matches, a run which includes wins against their Capital neighbours and Rangers.
But Hibs themselves have clocked up five matches without defeat, emulating the Jambos’ win at Ibrox on the opening day of the season with their own 3-1 victory in Govan, and have eased themselves into the play-off positions.
Hearts will go into Sunday’s showdown as favourites but Dublin-born Heffernan revealed he and his team-mates are relishing the chance to become the first team to topple the Tynecastle outfit.
He said: “You can’t take anything away from Hearts, they are in great form and have dropped just two points and, by all accounts, they’ve beaten opposition teams quite comfortably most weeks.
“It’s going to be tough, but we are looking forward to it. We think we are as good as anyone in the divison and we proved that when we went to Ibrox and won. So it’s a game we are looking forward to. There will be a great atmosphere, the lads are buzzing. These are the games you want to play in, big matches, big derby days.
“The fans will be right up for it, as we will be, so we are hoping we can put on a good performance and get the three points.”
Heffernan has limited experience of the Edinburgh derby but has a 100 per cent record – he played 28 minutes of Hibs’ 2-1 win at Easter Road at the turn of the year as a second-half substitute.
But in seven matches against the Gorgie outfit, the other six while playing for Kilmarnock, he enjoyed three wins and just one defeat.
He said: “Killie had a good record against Hearts when I was at Rugby Park. We went to Tynecastle a couple of times and enjoyed good wins. I managed a hat-trick in one of them. It would be nice to get another one on Sunday, but any sort of win will leave us happy.
“It’s going to be a massive occasion and we are raring to go. I’m sure Hearts will fancy themselves, but we are not really bothered about them. We are confident in our own ability and think we have enough to win the game.”