The last time Hibs hosted Raith Rovers in the Scottish Cup, Grant Murray led the Kirkcaldy side to an upset victory in Leith.
Five years on, almost to the day, Murray finds himself on the other side of the fence, trying to ensure there will be no “dancing in the streets of Raith” this evening.
Having overseen that memorable 3-2 triumph over Terry Butcher’s relegation-threatened Hibees on February 8, 2014 in his former guise as Rovers manager, the Easter Road side’s joint-caretaker is well aware of the nothing-to-lose mentality the League One side will bring to Edinburgh.
John McGlynn’s team are not exactly pulling up any trees in Scotland’s third tier, but neither are Hibs at present. Murray knows nothing can be taken for granted.
“It’s an opportunity for them to come and cause an upset, as a lot of people will look upon it,” said Murray, who has been in charge of Hibs alongside Eddie May since Neil Lennon’s exit a fortnight ago.
“We have to respect that and be totally focussed on how we perform and go about it. We had players in that Raith team that had played at a higher level when we came here that day and some hadn’t. It was an opportunity for them to go and play at Easter Road in front of a big crowd to go and test themselves. We gave them a bit of belief and said ‘anything can happen in the cup, get yourself ahead and anything can happen’. Once they did, that gave them a massive belief because scoring goals away from home against a top-flight side is very difficult.”
Paul Hanlon and Lewis Stevenson are the only survivors in the Hibs team from that ill-fated tie. There are plenty other more recent examples of cup upsets which Murray will be mentioning as he strives to ensure there is no hint of complacency from the favourites today.
“We’ve got an experienced squad and we’ll have guys who have been knocked out of cups, being the underdogs and favourites,” said Murray. “I’m totally aware that can happen. Even when you look to the previous round, Ayr United – flying in the Championship and scoring lots of goals – go out to Auchinleck Talbot. Dundee find it difficult at home to Queen of the South, get a second bite at it but unfortunately for them Stephen Dobbie scores a hat-trick and they’re out the cup.”
Murray knows how well-drilled Rovers are likely to be under McGlynn after playing under him at Stark’s Park before succeeding him as manager when he was headhunted by Hearts in 2012. Six years after leaving the Kirkcaldy club, McGlynn returned to take the reins for a second time just over four months ago.
“It got me on to the coaching side of the game in my time under John,” Murray reflected. “He signed me late in my career and there was a pathway there and he encouraged me to do it so I was very grateful for it. He was very organised and tactically very good, he was a winner. He will come here with an organised team and with a plan to win the game.”
Murray isn’t the only former Raith man in the Hibs camp. Young left-back Sean Mackie moved to Easter Road from the Kirkcaldy club three years ago.
“I enjoyed my time at Raith,” said the 20-year-old Elphinstone boy, who made one substitute appearance for Rovers. “I got my move here on the back of my time at Raith. I didn’t think anybody was looking at me but Ray McKinnon, the gaffer at the time, told me Hibs and Hearts were interested. Ray told me to go on trial with them both and then make my mind up from there. I enjoyed it at Hearts but they told me I had to make a decision by the end of the weekend. I didn’t want to do that, I wanted to have a look at Hibs as well.
“I went to a game against Alloa, spoke to Alan Stubbs and I decided I wanted to come here. I’d been here before when I was younger and I knew the facilities were good and things like that. There was a good vibe.”
Mackie has started to make his presence felt in the Hibs side over the past few months, with nine appearances since November. Lennon said in December that he was a big fan of the left-back but initially had concerns about his mentality since he tended to let any mistakes have a detrimental effect on his game.
“That was a big thing with me, if I am doing well I’m fine, but there were times I would make a mistake where I would get on to myself and I would have bad game after that,” he said. “But I have been speaking to people here about it and it’s fine now. I have learned to deal with it, I know if I do make a mistake now it’s not the end of the world, I can’t be perfect all the time. That’s what I have taken from that. I was always thinking players shouldn’t make mistakes and I would get on my own case.
“Then you realise when you play for the first team and make a mistake that there’s no time to dwell on it, you have just got to get on with it and think about the next pass or whatever. But sometimes if I make a mistake I like to watch it back and realise what I could have done better. I think I’ve done alright since I came in, coming off the bench I think I have made an impact and the games I have started I think I’ve done well in.”