HIBS skipper James McPake has urged his Easter Road team-mates to spoil Celtic’s SPL title celebrations by staging their own party tomorrow.
Thousands of Hoops fans will descend upon the Capital ground to greet Neil Lennon’s players, convinced they’ve secured their first championship flag in four years after arch-rivals Rangers were docked ten points following their plunge into adminstration.
The automatic penalty has left Celtic 14 points clear at the top with only 12 matches remaining, a gap regarded by all but possibly the most die-hard Rangers fan as too great for Ally McCoist’s deflated stars to overcome.
Tomorrow’s match will be Celtic’s first since the dramatic events on the south side of Glasgow unfolded earlier this week and McPake knows full well their supporters will make the most of the chance to wallow in Rangers’ plight.
But, while there’s likely to be little sympathy among Hibs fans for Rangers, McPake is convinced they’d far rather enjoy a win over Celtic than join opposition fans in gloating about the Govan club’s fall from grace. Agreeing it was somewhat unusual to contemplate a title-winning party in mid-February rather than in the final couple of weeks of the season, the defender said: “Our fans were fully behind us in our last couple of games and I am sure it will be the same tomorrow.
“They’ll like nothing more than to come and watch Hibs beat Celtic, that will give them something to party about regardless of what else might be happening. That’s what we are hoping for.”
Celtic will arrive in Edinburgh on the back of 17 straight wins in domestic competition, a record which has made them favourites to complete the treble, but McPake and his team-mates are aware Hibs were the last side to take a point off them, a no-scoring draw in Glasgow in October. Hibs, of course, have undergone a radical transformation since, then manager Colin Calderwood sacked and replaced by Fenlon who has brought in eight new players. And confidence has been restored on the back of a William Hill Scottish Cup triumph over Kilmarnock and draw against Aberdeen, two results achieved without the loss of a goal.
McPake, who believes Lennon won’t let his players take the foot off the pedal despite this week’s events, said: “Celtic have put together a remarkable run but all good things have to come to an end. We were the last team to take a point off them, we’ve shown we can do it so why not? With no disrespect to Killie or Aberdeen, it’s a step up and a difficult match but this is when we can raise our game. We are intent on keeping another clean sheet.
“Do that and we feel we have the quality further up the park to get goals.”
n SCOTLAND Under-21s will face their Italian counterparts in an international challenge match at Easter Road on Wednesday, April 25 at 7pm.