Familiarity does not breed contempt in Edinburgh when it comes to derby matches.
Drawing Hibs in the Scottish Cup for the third year running gives Hearts the chance to atone for two successive eliminations at the hands of their near neighbours.
For combative midfielder Ross Callachan and his team-mates, the tie is invaluable. Hearts haven’t beaten Hibs in any of their last eight meetings and talk of the Easter Road side becoming the Capital’s dominant team grates heavily across the city. The clubs most recently met in the Premiership last month, when Hibs recorded a 1-0 home win. They come together again in the league on December 27 and then again in the fourth round of the cup on January 20 – both at Tynecastle.
Such is the fervour and depth of rivalry between them that no-one is complaining. For Edinburgh football fans and players, it is impossible to overdose on that derby atmosphere.
“It’s a great cup draw, great for Edinburgh,” said Callachan. “That’s three years in a row, isn’t it? Hearts haven’t done great the last two years in the Scottish Cup against Hibs so this is a good chance to go and rectify that. We lost against them last time as well so it’s an opportunity to make things right.
“Hopefully it’s third time lucky for us. We need to go and do it for the fans. They will be disappointed from the last game so this is a good chance to make up for it.
“The more Edinburgh derbies, the better it is for Scottish football. It’s a great occasion. I played in my first one this season and it was a disappointing day but it was good for my career. I loved it.
“We have one on December 27 first, so we need to get a result there as well. You relish playing in derbies at any club. We can’t wait for these games.”
The feeling within Riccarton is that Hearts have underperformed against their biggest rivals for some time; that they haven’t done themselves justice in what is the most important fixture on their calendar.
“Hearts were dominant for a while, now Hibs have done well and got the results in the last seven or eight games,” said Callachan. “It doesn’t really matter how a team is playing in a derby, you just need to go and win the game.
“We’ve played a lot better than we did in the last derby. I think we’re better as individuals and as a team. It was disappointing that night for myself. I’d be first to hold my hands up. I wasn’t good enough. I can say that with honesty. I think a lot of boys would hold their hands up and admit they weren’t good enough. It just gives us more incentive to go out in the next derby and do better.”
A lifelong Hearts supporter, Callachan had waited since childhood to don the maroon shirt against Hibs. His first taste of the fixture was disappointing following his move from Raith Rovers to Tynecastle in August. “I hate getting beat. I’m a winner and I want to win games. In a derby, it means even more. I know what it means to the fans and it hurt.”
A well-publicised tweet from Hibs midfielder Marvin Bartley afterwards merely compounded Callachan’s feelings. Bartley insinuated Callachan made no impact in midfield against him.
“There’s nothing I can do about that. I see a lot of tweets about myself and other players. That’s up to them,” said the 24-year-old, diplomatically. “They’ve made that decision to go and tweet about me. There’s nothing I can really do about that. I don’t like getting involved on social media. I think it’s pretty pointless, to be honest. I was tagged in it but it didn’t really bother me.”
He insisted he won’t use it as motivation against Bartley next time. “Not really. I’ve played against him a lot so we know each other. He’s decided to tweet about me, which is a bit strange but it’s just one of those things.”
What Callachan and the Hearts players will take with them from the last derby is the sense of dejection felt at full-time. “The boys will still be hurting from that game, and other recent games,” he explained. “We haven’t been as good as what we show in training. We haven’t taken it on to the park on a Saturday. The boys are hurting, which gives you that incentive to go into the next game or the next derby and do better. We know we’re better than what we’ve shown.”
Hearts are without a win in their last four matches, including last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Partick Thistle at the reopening of Tynecastle Park. It was Callachan’s first game in Gorgie with his new club.
“It was a great feeling. I played there with Raith last season but in a Hearts strip I was buzzing. When I walked out I got the fright of my life with the fireworks. I grabbed the mascot in front of me and I think he got a fright as well. The ground was shaking.
“There was a right good atmosphere and the fans were great. Hopefully they keep coming and spur the boys on. We were so close to winning with only five minutes to go, then Partick equalised.”
That was the first of six successive home games, with players noting the need to build momentum. “We’ve got a lot of games coming up at Tynecastle. If we can just get that win and take momentum from it. We need to show a bit of resilience,” said Callachan. “When we go 1-0 up in games, we need to see it out better. If we do that then we’ll pick up more points and climb up the table.
“Sometimes the fans can bring pressure [at home]. If you think of it negatively, it’ll affect you in a negative way. If you think if it as a good thing, it will help your game and spur you on. It makes you do better. I think it does that with me.”
• Hearts players Ross Callachan, Euan Henderson and Jon McLaughlin visited the Save The Children shop on Edinburgh’s Dalry Road to promote Christmas Jumper Day. They took part in a window-dressing challenge at the store to give it a fitting maroon theme. The Save The Children charity has its name emblazoned across the Hearts kit.