Hibs star Danny Handling today revealed how a Prince Buaben jibe has stoked the fires ahead of tomorrow’s Edinburgh derby, leaving him and his team-mates determined to have the last laugh over their Capital rivals.
Buaben, pictured below, posted a comment on his Facebook page noting his delight after a late goal from Adam Eckersley had earned Hearts victory away to Alloa on the day Hibs were held to a no-scoring draw by Dumbarton, the midfielder adding: “We got three points and that’s the difference between us and the other chaser”.
But while admitting Buaben was having a joke with Jambo fans, Handling admitted he’d got up the noses of Alan Stubbs’ players with his words pinned to the dressing room wall at the Easter Road club’s training centre.
The 20-year-old said: “We saw a comment from Prince Buaben saying he’s getting bored of these ‘chasers’ or something like that, so it would be nice to shut him up.
“He was having a wee joke with the fans, but sometimes you get annoyed with what people say. I think the skipper put it up on a sheet at the training ground, so all the lads have seen it. We want to prove him wrong because he’s having a dig at Hibs and we don’t appreciate that.”
While Handling accepts there’s plenty of banter between Hibs and Hearts fans and even the players, he insisted Stubbs’ men will be deadly serious tomorrow as he and his team-mates strive to bring Hearts’ unbeaten start to the season to an end.
He said: “There’s no hatred between the players. There are a lot of friends between the teams – I’m good pals with Sam Nicholson – so it’s not about hating each other. It’s banter between the two sets of players – but it does make you want to beat them even more though. We don’t mind having the jokes and stuff, but when we get on the pitch it will be deadly serious.”
Handling also took exception to a claim by former Hibs star David Farrell that over the years the Easter Road outfit haven’t been ready to do battle in the derbies in the way in which Hearts have.
He said: “I’d disagree. If you were to see us inside our changing-room before derbies you would see we’re just as up for it as they are. We have been looking forward to this game as we have every other derby. Not much has to be said about it and you don’t have to be motivated for it. Nobody has to tell you what to do.
“In your own mind you are up for it and I don’t think anyone can say we have not been up for it in every game we have had. Even in the last game at Tynecastle I thought we were the better team – we missed a penalty and unfortunately got beaten. That, though, wasn’t down to us not being up for the game, we just didn’t have any luck on the pitch.”
As always, a heady dose of hype has swirled around Hearts’ trip to Easter Road, but, Handling insisted, amid all the talk of “war”, it shouldn’t be forgotten that there’s 90 minutes of football to be played.
He said: “It’s not just about Hibs v Hearts and a lot of hatred – there’s more to it than that. It’s about the football on the pitch and the three points. Of course, it’s a massive game, there will be challenges flying in and the fans will be up for it. There might be a few verbals, especially if a tackle goes in that you don’t like or there’s a bad decision – but nothing out of the ordinary comes out of it.”
Hibs, of course, go into tomorrow’s match trailing Hearts by 14 points, but, claimed Handling, that has no bearing on the latest clash between the clubs. He said: “There is a gap between ourselves and Hearts, but I wouldn’t say this derby is any more important than any other. They’re all important. It’s early in the season, there’s a lot of football to be played so it has a long way to go.”
If Hibs endured a troubled start to the season in stark contrast to Hearts’ runaway success, Stubbs’ players have strung together an unbeaten run of five matches to haul themselves into fourth place in the Championship table and into the play-off positions – a fact which led Handling to reveal he believes it’s all starting to come together for the Easter Road side.
Dismissing an earlier assertion from another Hearts player, Soufian El Hassnaoui, that Hibs lack the quality to force themselves into the title race alongside the Jambos and Rangers, Handling said: “I would totally disagree with that. No disrespect to anyone else, but for a team like Hibs we should be in the top league, we shouldn’t be down here.
“We have a great squad here, we have great talent and players want to play for this club.
“On paper we have one of the best sides in Scotland, and I don’t just mean in this league – I mean in the Premiership as well. This is a massive club, so to be in the play-off places is a step closer to where we want to be. There’s a long way to go – it’s about getting results and continuing to do that.
“It’s about consistency. Hearts have got loads of points, they’ve not been beaten and have consistency. But we are getting to that stage now. From the start of the season we were dominating teams, just not taking our chances and getting results.
“It’s taken time, but we have been patient, worked hard, and it’s now all coming together.”