James McPAKE has claimed the sight of Hibs fans queuing to buy tickets for tonight’s showdown with Swedish cracks Malmo has simply reinforced his belief that the Easter Road side are in for a night of European glory.
Pat Fenlon’s side returned from the first leg of their Europa League second qualifying tie trailing by two goals, but, as would be expected, claiming they can over-turn that deficit and so set up a potentially money-spinning clash with English Premiership outfit Swansea City.
Today the Hibs skipper insisted nothing had changed in the intervening seven days to change his mind, but that, in fact, the belief had grown stronger by the sight of thousands of fans snapping up tickets.
McPake and his team-mates staged a final training session ahead of the game at Easter Road, arriving and departing to see a constant stream of supporters seeking to take advantage of ticket prices slashed for those who bought in advance with sales soaring to 13,000 by the close of business.
Ticket prices increase for those buying today to £20 (adults) and £10 (concessions) with an already large crowd poised to roar on Fenlon’s players throughout the entire 90 minutes, as McPake underlined the importance of them to the players.
Citing the relegation decider with Dunfermline and last season’s 1-0 win over Celtic, the big defender said: “I don’t think the fans would come if they didn’t beleive and they know they can help us. When the Hibs fans are behind us and create a brilliant atmosphere, it does help us.
“The Dunfermline game we had to win comes to mind and against Celtic when we were hanging on and it seemed as if they were willing us to get the ball up the park. If they can create that type of atmosphere again, it will definitely be an advantage for us.”
While he admitted Hibs face a tough task, McPake conceded he and his team-mates cannot allow it to turn into mission impossible by losing a killer third goal – but he pondered on just how the Malmo players might react to an Easter Road crowd in full cry.
He said: “I don’t know what the other grounds are like in Sweden. Malmo’s atmosphere was decent, even though there weren’t many there. If we can make it hostile and uncomfortable for them when they have the ball and the crowd can get right behind us, it will only help.
“We want to get the first goal, but we need to be cautious. We will be on the front foot, but we need to be patient and disciplined.”
McPake, pictured below, agreed that it is sure to be an emotional night as players and fans alike pay tribute to Hibs legend Lawrie Reilly, the last of the Famous Fvie, with a minute’s applause before kick-off, while Fenlon’s stars will wear black armbands.
He said: “People will be turning up for Lawrie because he was a great man, everyone at the club loves him. It’s a sad time for the club, there will obviously be emotional, but what better way to go out and win the tie for Lawrie and his family as well?”