Chris Cadden keen for Hibs to put on a show against Hearts as Lee Johnson explains 'Good Will Hunting' approach
Chris Cadden was the last Hibs player to score a goal against Hearts, in last season’s Scottish Cup semi-final defeat at Hampden.
Given the outcome of the game it is little wonder that many supporters of a green and white persuasion might have forgotten the finer details of the tie.
“Scoring was a good feeling but we didn’t win the game, so it doesn’t bother me it’s forgotten about,” the defender says, previewing this Sunday’s meeting between the Edinburgh rivals.
“I thought we were unlucky that day. The way the game went it was quite difficult. Scoring and winning would be ideal.”
It certainly would – especially given Hibs haven’t got one over on their rivals since before Cadden was a Hibs player. The 25-year-old signed in January 2020, three weeks after a Martin Boyle double gave the Easter Road side a 2-0 victory at Tynecastle on Boxing Day. Since then the defender has played in two goalless draws, a 3-1 defeat, and the semi-final defeat.
“I haven’t seen Easter Road after a derby win yet,” he adds.
“When you sign for Hibs you look at the big derby wins on YouTube and see the Sunshine on Leith celebrations at the end.
“They’re the ones you watch. You want a rocking Easter Road, that’s the reason you sign and these games are the reason you want to play here."
Cadden, who on Friday signed an extended deal with Hibs tying him to the club until the summer of 2025, is eager to mark his new contract with a positive outcome on Sunday.
"There’s no place I’d rather be playing my football. It feels like home for me now and it was a no-brainer,” he explains.
“Last year was tough but I came in at the tail end of the season we finished third and got to the cup final. I know the feeling of winning with Hibs is great, it’s worth the lows.
“I know that comes with playing for a big club, when you’re not doing well it is difficult. But the highs outweigh that and all I want to do is succeed here.”
The arrival of Lee Johnson and his backroom staff played a big part in Cadden wasting no time in signing his new deal.
“The gaffer has been great with me – that’s probably why I signed, because how good he is and his backroom staff.
“He spoke to me prior to signing and told me how much he valued having me in the squad. I was always going to sign, but having that really helped.
“I know I’m not the finished article, there are little things both the gaffer and I know I can improve on. That’s what I want to do, that’s my drive every morning when I wake up, to be the best player I can be.
“To be somewhere where you feel you can improve and get better is great.”
Cadden will hope working with Johnson and his staff can help him, ahem, put on a show everywhere Hibs go, as the supporters have taken to singing.
“The fans have been brilliant with me – but I don’t know what to do when they are singing my song, I just get a bit embarrassed,” Cadden admits.
“But it’s brilliant, I love it. It’s a catchy tune, which helps. They have been great with me. Even when I’m out and about in Edinburgh they are nothing but positive.
“That rapport does help you as a player, it means a lot to you."
It is highly likely that several players will be making their derby debut and having a relatively experienced head like Cadden involved could be crucial.
Having experienced this fixture as a player, Hibs boss Lee Johnson is only too aware of the 100mph aspect of such games and wants his players to be fully prepared for it.
"I think it could well be a shock which is why we’ve been trying to prepare the boys for it but we’ve got speed,” he says.
"While we’ve got speed in the team that always carries a threat and if I was the opposition I would be very worried about our speed. It only takes one mistake, one wrong ball and we're in. Robbie [Neilson] will be fully aware of our threats, as we are theirs.
"At the end of the day it’s up to us to show we’re on a competitive level in this division and it’s a good test for us as it’s a team that finished above last season.”
Speaking earlier this week, Johnson spoke of ‘bridging the gap’ to Hearts, after the Gorgie outfit finished third last season, some way clear of Hibs in eighth.
"We were too far off Hearts last season statistically and in terms of all the data we look at,” he told Sky Sports.
Expanding on that at Hibs’ Ormiston training base, Johnson likened his approach to that of Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting.
"I’m a bit of a weirdo in terms of the way I see football,” he smiles.
"I see a numbers game, I’m always looking for reference points on the pitch, numbers overloads, box entries, distances. What’s that film where he writes all the things on the board with Matt Damon? Good Will Hunting? That’s how I see football matches, I’m always taking little reference points and playing the numbers game.
"It doesn't guarantee you a win but playing the numbers game over a period of time does guarantee you progression. The big thing statistically last year was that our attacking threat was not anywhere near good enough and if you look at the key elements that produce goal scoring teams, we were not anywhere near Hearts.
"Defensively we were solid and we’re tweaking the dial this year to turn that a bit. Does it mean we’ll concede more goals? Potentially.
"But hopefully we’ll score more as well,” he adds.