Hibs have gone from underdogs to firm favourites in just 72 hours, the odds stacked against them as they faced Championship leaders Rangers but now backed to shock Premiership basement side Dundee United in tonight’s League Cup quarter-final.
But as far as Fraser Fyvie is concerned, it makes no difference to him and his team-mates – they simply want to keep their impressive unbeaten run going regardless of who the opposition might be.
The Easter Road midfielder did, however, admit confidence is sky-high among Alan Stubbs’ players after they defeated the Gers 2-1 at Easter Road on Sunday, although he conceded in a one-off cup tie anything can happen on the night.
The former Aberdeen and Wigan player said: “There has been a good mood around the camp after the result on Sunday. It was a decent performance and we were glad to get the three points and put pressure on Rangers. It probably was a must-win game, just to show our intent to catch them.
“It is still in their hands as they are five points clear, but we’ve closed the gap and hopefully we can keep going.”
And while Sunday’s showdown was a thriller for spectators and the nationwide army of armchair viewers watching live on television, Fyvie revealed that while the final result was so sweet, it had, as far as he was concerned, been something of a battle.
He said: “It was a great game for spectators because it was end-to-end. We sat in and broke on them a few times and, when you get a result like that, it’s enjoyable. But there was a lot of running involved and a lot of tactics. We did what we were asked to do by the manager and I don’t think he can question any of us for our effort or how we implemented his game plan.”
Such attention to detail will, Fyvie insisted, be evident again tonight, even if United under new boss Mixu Paatelainen are less familiar opponents than Rangers, who they’ve now faced ten times in little more than a year.
He said: “Whether it’s a Championship team or a Premiership team – in a cup game or a league game – we’ll go in looking to win it. Hopefully we’ll get the right performance tonight. We are a good side, with a magnificent squad in terms of the quality and the personalities in the dressing room. Are we favourites? I don’t know because they are a Premiership team. But we are a good side and are confident in what we can do.
“It’s a cup game and anything can happen. We’ve gone through a few things about United and we’ll know what they’re about, just as they’ll know what we’re about. It will come down to whoever is the better team.”
United, who had hit rock bottom with a run of ten league games without a win, got a much needed boost to morale with a narrow win against Ross County thanks to Billy McKay’s penalty at the weekend. But, as Fyvie pointed out, confidence couldn’t be any higher as far as Stubbs’ players are concerned having won nine and drawn one of their last ten Championship matches to which can be added a stunning League Cup win over then Premiership leaders Aberdeen.
He said: “We are confident in our own ability. The games we have played has involved a lot of players because the manager has put together a fantastic squad. There is competition for places and everyone is pushing each other. So we were confident we could beat Rangers.”
Fyvie himself has first-hand evidence of that competition after a spell out with a hamstring injury and he cites the man of the match performance by 20-year-old John McGinn in the middle of the park against Rangers as evidence of how players are being pushed to ever greater heights.
He said: “I thought John was excellent in the second half. He got us up the pitch and some of his deliveries into the strikers were brilliant. It’s a massive squad and everyone is fighting for places. That is adding to the players’ performances – they know they need to play well to keep the jersey.”
And Fyvie believes the oft-repeated accusation that Hibs have in the past lacked a mental strength has been well and truly answered, saying: “The manager himself sets that and it filters all the way through the team. He is very mentally strong and there are plenty of big characters in the dressing room and we are all going in the right direction.”