HIBS midfielder Tom Soares today claimed Pat Fenlon’s stars can really only start to enjoy the thought of their historic Scottish Cup showdown with Capital rivals Hearts once they’ve secured SPL safety.
The Easter Road outfit’s relegation worries have been pushed to one side all week as everyone has focused on the mouthwatering prospect of Edinburgh’s big two clashing at Hampden in a month’s time.
But, the midfield ace insisted, they haven’t been forgotten amid all the hype which he knows will continue unabated between now and May 19.
Admitting it had been difficult to even attempt to ignore what many would have you believe is the only game which matters, the on-loan Stoke City player said: “All the boys know we are not safe as yet, that we still have a big task in front of us.
“People are talking as if there’s only one match that counts but we have to keep our heads clear and concentrate on each of the league games as they come up. Everyone is talking about the final, there’s been a lot of stuff in the media already and it will undoubtedly intensify the closer we get to it.
“However, we have to careful not to get sucked into it, to ensure we concentrate on getting the points we need to get ourselves safe.
“Since I came to the club we’ve tried to get the points to make us mathematically safe but it’s probably taken a bit longer than we would have wanted but the target is to do that as soon as possible, and only then can we may calm down a bit and begin looking forward to the final.”
Soares admitted he was about to enter unknown territory with the visit of Kilmarnock representing the first of Hibs’ five “post-split” fixtures, a scenario which he will be experiencing for the first time.
In essence it’s a straightforward fight between Hibs and Dunfermline to avoid relegation with Kilmarnock and Aberdeen well clear of danger and St Mirren requiring but a single point to retain their status in the top flight.
Fenlon’s players currently enjoy a seven-point cushion over the Pars, an advantage they’ll be hoping to extend before the Fife club travel to Hibs early next month but Soares admitted he was a bit unsure of just how clubs such as Sunday’s opponents might approach the final run of games.
The 25-year-old said: “I don’t know what the managers of other teams might do, whether they’ll perhaps give some young players a bit of experience, maybe rest players who have been carrying knocks and so on.
“Which games they might choose to do that sort of thing – if they do – is something else we don’t know so we have to prepare for every game as we normally would, concentrating on ourselves and what we do in the 90 minutes.
“We can only play what’s in front of us.”
The attitude of individual opposition players, aware the best they can hope for is the dubious distinction of finishing top of the bottom six, is another unknown quantity although Soares firmly believes professional pride will come to the fore.
He said: “I can only talk for myself, I’m a competitive person who doesn’t like losing so I’d imagine that while they know they are safe, players at other clubs will still want to win. If they do go into these games with their minds on other things that would probably be good for us but, again, we can only think of ourselves.
“We have five big games left to play with a few tricky away matches such as Inverness on the final day of the season but hopefully we’ll have sorted ourselves out before then.”
Regardless of the carefree situation to which Killie have hauled themselves, Soares revealed he’s anticipating a bit of an edge to Sunday’s game with Hibs having knocked the Ayrshire club out of the Scottish Cup before winning 3-1 at Rugby Park when he scored two of the goals.
Although they’ve ended up in the bottom six, Kilmarnock had their own day to remember at Hampden, defeating SPL champions Celtic in the final of the Scottish Communities League Cup. But even so, Soares believes they’ll pitch up at Easter Road still a touch envious of Hibs. He said: “Killie have had a good season having won a piece of silverware themselves but I still think they’ll want to prove a wee point to us after we put them out of the Scottish Cup. They might be thinking that they, rather than ourselves, should be going to Hampden.
“That memory will no doubt be fresh in their minds as will our win at their place a few weeks ago so I’m sure that will add a bit to Sunday.
“It just goes to show what a funny old game football can be. Who could have predicted just how the second half of this season has gone, the Rangers scenario and both ourselves and Hearts in the Scottish Cup final.
“Both Killie and Hibs have finished in the bottom half of the league and yet they’ve won the League Cup and we’ve reached the final of the Scottish. That’s the brilliant thing about football, that’s why it is so exciting and such a great sport.”