Murray backs Hibs to fight for top-six spot

Murray tussles with Beram Kayal. The Hibs star will face the Celtic player again today

Murray tussles with Beram Kayal. The Hibs star will face the Celtic player again today

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The statistics may suggest otherwise, but Hibs skipper Ian Murray today insisted there’s light at the end of the tunnel for the Easter Road outfit’s suffering fans.

Having seen their side win just three out of their opening 12 matches and watched the second half capitulation against Celtic which ended their dream of glory in the Scottish Communities League Cup, the majority of supporters are beginning to question whether there will be anything the cheer at the end of this season.But Murray claimed that while slight, the progress made has slipped under the radar with Colin Calderwood’s side attracting the sort of attention from which other clubs have escaped.

He said: “We finished tenth last season and we are sitting ninth at the moment. I know people don’t want to hear that, but it is still small progress.

“I don’t want to drag other teams into it, but look at Dundee United. They finished fourth last season and are sitting tenth and I don’t get the same negative vibes and feeling about them. They have lost a lot of players, but we have also lost a lot of quality players as well.

“We have a few games coming up against teams round and about us in the league, matches we feel we can win and if we do then we’ll be sitting fourth or fifth and looking OK again.

“No-one wants to be ninth at the moment, that’s definite, but when you look around the league there’s inconsistency apart from Rangers and perhaps Motherwell who are doing well.

“I don’t think Celtic would call themselves consistent, nor Hearts. We are six points behind Hearts who took three points off us so there is a six-point swing in that game.

“It’s not all doom and gloom like people would want you to believe. We are still very confident we will finish where we belong, that we can progress not on just a couple of places from last season, but to where we want to be and that’s definitely top six.

“I don’t think there’s any evidence that we won’t be there.”

As a Hibs fan himself Murray can well understand the frustration of his fellow supporters, their mood not helped by the manner of the club’s exit from the League Cup. But while accepting he probably views events from a different perspective, he said: “We’ve been beaten in the quarter-final of the cup by a team that’s in the Europa League; it’s not like going out of the Scottish Cup to Ayr United last season.

“I know how hard it is to be a manager and a player. The fans will rightly get frustrated. It’s up to them if they support the club or not. For me it was always supporting the team no matter what.

“I understand there’s a lot of expenditure involved in going to games – it’s no long a case of turning up and paying a fiver to get in. There’s a lot of cash involved and I can understand people might want to spend their money elsewhere, they have that freedom of choice.

“But to me you support the team and the club, but it is times like this we need to pull together.”

The patience of the fans, however, is likely to be tested to the full again this afternoon as Hibs travel to Celtic Park with the trauma of Wednesday night still fresh in their minds, but, Murray insisted, Calderwood’s players will travel without fear.

The 30-year-old, who hopes to shake off a knock to take his place in the centre of defence, admitted that he and his team-mates were perhaps finding it a little easier playing away from home with two of their three wins coming on the road.

He said: “The stats would maybe suggest that. The inconsistency has come home and away although it’s more disappointing at home because of the advantage and the fans.”

And he insisted the fact Hibs had suffered such a bad defeat only four days ago should have little bearing on the outcome of today’s match: “You play each other so often anyway that you know what you’re going to get. Playing Celtic away from home, you know they will come at your straight from the off.”