Tom Taiwo today insisted he’s more interested in bringing Hibs’ poor run to an end than condemning Capital rivals Hearts to Championship football next season.
Depending on how St Mirren fair in Inverness today, victory for Terry Butcher’s side at Tynecastle tomorrow would seal the Jambos’ fate, a scenario Hearts are desperate to avoid although they know the drop is inevitable.
But, while admitting he and his team-mates are well aware of what might transpire, the Easter Road midfielder said: “I think we are just focusing on getting three points for the fact we’ve been on quite a poor run. We need those points to kick start our season and finish as high up the league as we can.
“We wanted to finish sixth, but that’s out of our reach now. Seventh is the next best place and we know we have to achieve that to salvage anything from our season.”
Hibs go into tomorrow’s match under totally different circumstances to the last time the two sides met. The first game of 2014 saw Butcher enjoy a 2-1 win in his first Edinburgh derby, a victory which completed a superb Festive period for the Hibees following wins over Ross County and Kilmarnock which, at the time, appeared to promise a terrific second half to the season.
However, since then, Hibs have managed just one win in 11 Premiership matches and now lie just seven points clear of the dreaded play-off spot which many are now predicting they are in danger of filling come the end of the campaign.
Taiwo, though, naturally disagrees with that assessment, the former Leeds, Chelsea and Carlisle star saying: “We’re confident we’re the best of the rest. If you keep looking down all the time then I don’t think that breeds confidence or a winning mentality.
“We know we can beat any team in that bottom six and I’m sure we’ll succeed in finishing seventh.”
Taiwo admitted, however, that he was at a loss to explain Hibs’ dramatic drop in form. He said: “It’s been tough. I think without really playing terribly or with any lack of effort, things have been poor.
“I think we’re not far away. It’s difficult when we let in poor goals. In training, we have been working on the shape, the back four and being solid in front of them. I don’t think it’s a case of the boys doing anything different. Maybe we lost a little bit of confidence when we had a couple of bad results that maybe should have gone our way.
“It’s been a downward spiral. There have been a lot of goals from individual errors and you can’t really compensate for that. Collectively as a team against St Johnstone and Partick Thistle the week before that we had good spells in the game but we didn’t capitalise. That’s what we have been working on, being prolific in front of goal and cutting out the silly mistakes.”
And Taiwo revealed Butcher has let his players have their say this week as they’ve prepared to face Hearts. He said: “We’ve had a couple of meetings. We’ve all put our views across. He’s said what he thinks and where we should be going and we’re all together as a team. That’s what we’ve got here. Even though times have been tough over the past few weeks, the team spirit has never been in question.
“We have meetings every week, but we’ve had meetings this week about what we can improve on, what’s gone wrong and how we should approach the game. The manager asks our opinions and we form a tactic and team selection from there.”
There have also been suggestions, given Butcher’s insistence that there will be big changes over the summer, that some players who may feel they have no future at Easter Road have “downed tools” and are simply seeing out their contracts.
Taiwo disagreed, using his own situation to underline his viewpoint having been one of those many believed was no longer in Butcher’s plans. He said: “Eight, nine weeks ago I was supposedly out the door. Through hard work I’ve brought myself back into contention. None of us are good enough to not play well and then command a job at the end of the year if our contracts are up.
“We all want to be playing, we all want to be in the shop window, preferably at Hibs but, if not, getting a job somewhere else. That’s what it is at the end of the day, it’s paying your mortgage and looking after your families. That means playing well on a Saturday. Playing every week and hopefully getting a new contract. It’s not to our benefit to chuck anything.”
And, while Hearts star Callum Paterson attempted to turn up the heat on Hibs, claiming all the pressure is on them tomorrow, Taiwo countered: “There is an element of pressure every week trying to get three points.
“But I think if you get too uptight about the game, knowing it is such a massive fixture for ourselves and the fans, it can become detrimental to the performance. We have just prepared for it like we would any other game. A lot of the boys have played in derbies before and I’ve played in quite a few. You know what to expect. It has been more focusing on the football and getting things right on the pitch rather than anything surrounding the game.”