Hibs had derby edge before Hanlon's famous goal '“ Stubbs
Paul Hanlon's dramatic last-gasp equaliser at Tynecastle is seen by many Hibs fans as not only the moment when the club's name was written on the Scottish Cup but the beginning of their recent dominance over their Capital rivals.
But, as far as former boss Alan Stubbs is concerned, the tide had begun to turn before then, the Liverpudlian vowing that his first taste of defeat in Gorgie would be his last.
So it has proved with his successor Neil Lennon taking his team across the city for Sunday’s Scottish Cup clash unbeaten in their last nine derbies and seeking to knock the Jambos out of the competition for the third season in succession.
Stubbs admitted that the dramatic fightback two years ago when, with his side trailing 2-0 and with only ten minutes remaining, Jason Cummings and Hanlon struck to force a replay, was probably remembered as the day on which his old club’s recent success had been built.
However, he firmly believes any fear factor which may have been at play as far as Hibs were concerned had already begun to vanish.
He recalled: “Just before that, we felt as if the tide was turning a bit. My first game at Tynecastle we lost 2-1. We’d missed a penalty to go 1-0 but performed well on the day.
“We were conscious of making sure that was the last time we lost there and luckily enough it was the last time we were defeated by them. It’s just carried on from then.
“There was always the mindset that Hearts had the sign over Hibs and the players did not relish the games. Hearts seemed to have a better frame of mind going into the games and that was the one thing we spoke about, we touched on it.
“I don’t think it’s worried Hibs when they’ve gone to Tynecastle, especially over the last few years. You can see the way they approach it now, there’s not a fear, but an excitement.”
Hibs followed up that late escape at Tynie by beating Hearts in the subsequent replay, a feat they repeated the following season when Stubbs – along with rock star Rod Stewart – made the draw which pitched the two Capital clubs together again.
Now they go head-to-head for an astonishing third time, made all the more remarkable that, again, Hearts have had the luck in being the home side.
Stubbs said: “It just seems a little bit like fate that in the last three years they have been drawn together. Last time I got a text from one of the directors when I’d done the draw and we’d paired them.
“He said ‘you might have kept us apart’ and I said ‘it’s maybe got a bit of fate, that the previous time Hibs had gone on and won the cup and would need a replay to follow the same path’.”
Hibs did so, drawing 0-0 in Gorgie before going on to crush Ian Cathro’s side 3-1 on their home turf, the then Championship side’s dream of back-to-back cup wins only ending in a thrilling semi-final against Aberdeen in which they again displayed their never-say-die attitude by coming back from 2-0 down only to lose to a late, deflected shot from Jonny Hayes.
Stubbs was at the latest Edinburgh derby, a drab 0-0 draw in which the only talking point was the Oli Shaw “goal” that didn’t stand and, he admitted, he misses such occasions.
He said: “I think if you have anything about you and are a footballer you will always miss the atmosphere, the build-up. It’s the whole package. It’s something you look forward to, particularly with it being a Scottish Cup tie.
“They are quite unique in atmospheres. Tynecastle is a difficult place to go to but every derby is different although we did quite well in them.”
While Hibs fans are relishing the chance to grab the bragging rights for an even more extended period, Stubbs did have one word of warning.
“You do have times when one team seems to get the results for a number of games,” he said. “At the moment it’s Hibs, before that Hearts. It’s nine unbeaten now so Hibs are having the better part of it, but that can change at any time.”
Many of the players Stubbs brought to Easter Road remain the nucleus of Lennon’s side with midfielder John McGinn, now a regular in the Scotland set-up, an increasingly influential figure, one who appears to rise to big occasions such as derbies. Stubbs said: “It’s great to see, he’s improving because of himself. I had a similar situation with Ross [Barkley] when I was at Everton. People like to take ownership of it and say ‘I worked with Ross’ and ‘I did this’. But, at the end of the day, you’re just there to guide them along. It’s the same when I was the manager and I’m sure it’s the same there with Neil now. A player most often improves because of the individual.
“You can say little things to him which help him, you can work with him and do little things. But, ultimately, it’s the player that has to take them on board to improve. John is certainly improving all the time. He still has room for improvement and that will happen, at Hibs or when he eventually moves on to whichever team it is going to be.”
Another Stubbs will be looking to for a big performance is Anthony Stokes, revealing he had the same problems with the maverick striker as Lennon had last week in the Algarve.
He said: “It comes as part of the package. I knew what I was getting with Anthony, Lenny knew what he was getting because he managed him before at Celtic.
“We all hope that one day we can change people. We may smooth a few rough edges off, but in terms of turning them into a diamond that’s very rarely going to happen. It’s Stokesy, it’s unfortunate. I’m sure Lenny won’t be happy with it but as far as I am aware it’s been dealt with. I had something similar when we were away at one point. It was virtually me going into the place and dragging him out. We’ve all been there.
“But he always produces on the park because he’s got that much ability and quality. He’s able to put differences behind him and issues in his private life and move on. He has an ability to put it to one side and match day seemed to be his release. It takes a strong character to do that.”
• Alan Stubbs was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup.