HIBS STAR Tom Taiwo today revealed he and his team-mates found the perfect way to push tomorrow’s Scottish Cup showdown with Hearts out of their minds – by concentrating on keeping the heat on Celtic at the top of the SPL table.
Since the draw almost a month ago pitched the Capital rivals together in a repeat of May’s Hampden final, the fourth-round tie has caught everyone’s imagination as debate has raged as to whether Hibs can gain some measure of revenge for that 5-1 hammering, or whether Hearts can extend their current unbeaten derby run to a 13th match.
But Pat Fenlon’s squad have studiously ignored the hype which has been slowly building as the game has drawn ever closer, instead focusing entirely on maintaining an impressive start to the season which has caught the rest of the SPL by surprise with Hibs just one point behind leaders Celtic despite successive defeats by Dundee and Aberdeen.
Hibs earned themselves a morale-boosting win away to St Johnstone in midweek to set themselves up for tomorrow’s match and, for the first time, allowed themselves to contemplate just what it would mean to everyone at Easter Road if they could emerge victorious.
As Fenlon’s ninth signing of the summer, the former Carlisle United star arrived in Edinburgh too late for the first derby of the season, but, as he prepared to face Hearts for the first time, he revealed he knows exactly what to expect thanks to team-mate Leigh Griffiths – a lifelong Hibs fan – and the club’s “kit lady” Joyce McCourt.
The 22-year-old said: “What have I been told to expect about the derby? Mayhem! They say it’s a crazy affair with high passion and high energy.
“It has been drummed into me that our derby record is not good enough against Hearts. Everyone has been talking about it, especially Leigh. Every time Hearts play he looks for their score and when they lose he’s happy.
“It’s the first result he looks for, but it was actually Joyce, the kit lady, who told me all about the derby. When I arrived here she was really helpful to me and she gave me an introduction to the history of the club. She has talked about our record against Hearts, that it has been a long time and the performances haven’t been up to the standards the fans expect.
“That’s the first thing, we have to put in a performance and hopefully the result will come. If we beat Hearts it will be hugs all round from Joyce – or we will be washing our own strips.
“The fans have also drummed it into me and when the draw was made it was all over the papers. When we drew Hearts there was great excitement. As players, we want to be playing in front of 16,000 or 20,000 fans, not 300 to 400, so a tie against Hearts is better than a lower league team.”
He added: “It’s not about revenge. It’s about putting things right and showing how far we have come as a team.”