Andy Kirk's impressive Edinburgh derby record helping him prepare Hearts to face Hibs
Northern Irish coach has plenty experience of Capital clashes
Andy Kirk is a reliable choice to deputise for Hearts manager Daniel Stendel in the build-up to an Edinburgh derby. He played in the fixture ten times and lost only twice. Both of those occasions were at Easter Road, but now he is readying the squad for a powderkeg occasion at Tynecastle Park on Boxing Day.
Stendel is in Germany attending to personal business and won’t return to the Capital until Christmas Day. Kirk has been assisting him since the former Barnsley coach was appointed two weeks ago and is overseeing training at Riccarton this week in his absence.
A popular Hearts striker in his day, the Northern Irishman is well qualified to communicate the need to beat Hibs and the methods of doing so. Between May 2000 and November 2003, he faced the Easter Road side ten times and finished with a record of four wins, four draws, two defeats and two goals.
He scored in a harrowing 6-2 loss in Leith under then-manager Jim Jefferies in October 2000. He also struck in the memorable 5-1 win over Hibs at Tynecastle in August 2002 and took part in the famous 4-4 draw between the clubs in Gorgie in January 2003.
“My experience was very positive, actually,” said Kirk. “I was involved in one defeat at Easter Road which I won’t talk about. But my second derby goal was in the 5-1 game so my experiences were always positive. Hopefully that continues.
“It helps that I’ve played in derbies. I can talk to the players about the experience I’ve had. When I’m preparing the team, they’ll know I’ve been through this experience. It will be an important experience for some of them.
“Tynecastle will be full and the expectation will still be there. The situation we’re in isn’t one that we wanted to be anywhere near but we’ve got to deal with that.The derby will become a really special experience, hopefully, for a lot of players.”
The situation he refers to needs no explaining. Hearts are fighting relegation and are now detached at the bottom of the Premiership following Saturday’s 2-1 loss at Hamilton.
“You would never have envisaged a club like Hearts would be sitting where they are. At the end of the day, performances and results haven’t been right,” conceded Kirk.
“It’s a situation we are responsible for getting ourselves out of. We will be working as hard as we can on and off the pitch to put it right.
“We are quite aware of the position we are in. It’s not something you can think will just be fine come the end of the season. It’s a relegation battle and we need to get ourselves out of it. The work we need to do will be getting done and hopefully we can get out of this mess.”
Playing a game of such magnitude against rivals may well help Hearts’ cause. Kirk believes the key lies in harnessing supporters’ passion.
“It probably is a good game for us to have because we all know what’s at stake. The position we’ve found ourselves in, sitting where we are in the league table, makes it all the more important for us. The atmosphere is going to be different. If you look at the St Johnstone game and the Celtic game last week, the atmosphere was totally different.
“The thing with Tynecastle is the fans are demanding, and rightly so in my opinion. But if you’re playing well and you give them a reason to be with you, it’s something special. When Tynecastle is rocking it’s different to most places in the league.
“When you’re the home side the pressure is always on you to win the game. It becomes more important when it’s a derby and even more so when we are in this situation and we need to win. Football is about pressure and the players and staff have to deal with that.”