Craig Levein hopes Hibs are so wound up by his “natural order” comment that they explode at Easter Road this evening.
The Hearts manager enraged his Hibs counterpart Neil Lennon after winning January’s Scottish Cup tie between the clubs and is hoping to push him over the edge when the teams meet again tonight.
Levein said he wanted to “restore the natural order of things” after his team beat Hibs 1-0 at Tynecastle to win their first derby in ten. Lennon was outraged in the aftermath when Levein stated he had no regrets about his choice of words.
The two have not come across one another since, but Levein believes their meeting in the Edinburgh derby is about who maintains control.
“I look forward to seeing Neil tonight,” said Levein. “My view on these games is that everybody tries their hardest. You are always just sitting below the volcano exploding. It’s who can control that the best. So I hope they are really uptight about it. That’s the way it goes.”
Levein has rarely suffered defeat at the hands of Hibs as a player or manager. Asked if he expected the remark to cause such a fuss, he replied: “Of course not.
“When Neil says he doesn’t know what it means, I am just trying to explain to him. For me, in this fixture, it is normal that we come out on top.”
Levein stressed that such comments are part of football and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. He cited Hibs’ celebrations after beating Hearts at home earlier in the season.
“Listen, it is just one big game. Isn’t it? It’s fun,” he said. “It hurts when you go down to Easter Road, they win 1-0 and they are doing a lap of honour and people are tweeting stuff.
“It hurts but the only real way to fix it is to do it on the park. If there are some words exchanged that maybe push some people a bit closer to the edge then that is part of it as well.”
Hearts head across Edinburgh with a depleted squad and Levein admitted he has never seen anything like his club’s current injury crisis.
David Milinkovic is almost certainly out with a knee injury, John Souttar is doubtful with a tight hamstring and Christophe Berra will take an injection to quell ankle pain. The head knock he suffered last weekend against Motherwell has improved.
Definitely absent are Arnaud Djoum with a snapped Achilles, whilst knee injuries have ended the season for Jamie Brandon and Rory Currie, and probably Demetri Mitchell too.
“In the last year I think we’ve had two snapped Achilles, two cruciates, four meniscus tears, a lateral reconstruction with Rory Currie – I’ve never seen anything like it,” commented Levein.
“In my whole career before I came here, I had seen one Achilles. That was when I was at Cowdenbeath as a manager. We’ve had two in a year, which is bizarre. Cruciates are more common, but we’ve had two.
“Rory Currie completely tore his lateral ligament, which is a really unusual injury. All four of the meniscus injuries that we have had have been in a really unusual place.
“The medical team are baffled by it as well. These injuries have been in games. How do you account for that? I don’t know. But we’ll manage to cobble something together for the team tonight I’m sure.”