Brian Graham knows exactly the sort of reception he’ll get from Dunfermline fans on Saturday – and none of it will be printable.
It may be more than three years since he played for Raith Rovers but, like supporters anywhere, those who follow the Pars have a long memory and will forever remain unforgiving to anyone who played for their big Fife rivals.
What doesn’t help, of course, is that in a much-travelled career, the 28-year-old has managed to score against Dumferline not only for Raith – where his one season reaped a remarkable 27 goals in 41 appearances – but Morton and Ross County.
However, Graham and his team-mates cross the Forth for the second weekend in succession giving scant regard as to which of Neil Lennon’s players may find the back of the net, their only concern being to end a winless run which, following the no-scoring draw at Stark’s Park, now stretches to five games in all competitions.
Remarkably, though, despite recent results, the point taken in Kirkcaldy saw Hibs return to the top of the Championship table. but Graham did concede they’d rather it was by virtue of something more than the three-goal difference which separates the Capital club from second-placed Queen of the South.
He said: “People might look at it and say ‘they’re having a bit of a blip’. Well, how many clubs have a blip and are still top of the league.
“We have to look at the positives, we went to Queen of the South and went down to ten men on a horrible, horrible day. At the end of the season that could prove to be a good point, the one at Raith could turn out to be a massive point.
“We know we could be top by more than goal difference but that’s the first quarter just finished. There’s a long way to go, it will be a long winter and we’ll see come January how the season is going to pan out I’d imagine.”
Graham believes the reason why such a fuss is being made of Hibs’ current difficulties following five straight league wins at the start of the season is simply down to the level of expectation at Easter Road.
He said: “We are in the position where every team wants to shoot us down and we need to be ready for that.
“The fans have high expectations and want to get back to the Premiership and the players are exactly the same. We just need to stick together and I believe we’ll get there.
“When I played with Raith every time we came up against a Rangers, Hearts or Hibs the whole team would get a lift and want to beat them. That’s the nature of the beast so we just have to be professional and get the job done.”
Hibs’ cause hasn’t been helped by the fact they’ve found themselves playing a man short in three of their last four Championship matches, midfielder Marvin Bartley picking up his second red card in the period while Lewis Stevenson was sent off at Palmerston Park.
The Easter Road outfit have appealed against referee Stephen Finnie’s decision and like everyone else at the club, Graham believes Bartley will see justice done and the red card rescinded as was the previous one shown as against Ayr United.
He said: “Last weekend was definitely frustrating particularly having looked back at Marvin’s red card. I don’t think there was much in it and even with ten men in the second half I thought the boys were brilliant. We never quite just created that chance to take us over the line.”
Graham, who watched the match from the bench before replacing fellow striker Grant Holt late on, said: “You are sitting there thinking ‘surely that can’t be another red card’.
“That’s just the way it seems to be going for us at the moment but it is a long, hard season and hopefully we’ll get the rub of the green going forward. We’ve had a couple of suspicious red cards, if ou want to put it that way, but we don’t want to dwell on it.
“The referee said Marv stamped on the Raith player’s groin, but I don’t think there was anything in it and hopefully the hearing will go our way.”
To anyone looking at the bald statistics, the perception may be that Hibs boss Lennon has something of a disciplinary problem on his hands – a suggestion met with an immediate rejection from Graham.
“I don’t worry about us getting a reputation at all,” he insisted. “We’re certainly not a dirty team and if you watch our games nine times out of ten it’s our boys taking a battering. But if the ref then gives us a red card, there’s nothing we can do about it.
“Marv wasn’t particularly happy on Saturday after the game, but we’ve had a laugh and a joke this week so he’s a wee bit more upbeat now and is hopeful of being available this Saturday.”
If, as hoped, Bartley enjoys another reprieve and is in Lennon’s plans, he can, at least, approach the game knowing Graham will be the one taking the heat from the home support.
The striker said: “I don’t get a particularly good reception. I’ve been back a few times and it’s been quite a lucky ground for me as I’ve scored few goals there. I don’t think you could print what they shout at me and I’m sure Saturday will be no different. Fans are good that way, they never forget, they have good memories. Raith are their big rivals in Fife to I know I’ll be getting a bit of stick.”
Graham admitted he hoped that flak would be well-merited with another goal although, he conceded, he’s found it difficult to pin down a starting place since moving from Ross County on a two-year contract in the summer.
He said: “It’s been a bit stop-start for me. I’ve not really had a consistent run in the team which is always what you are aiming for. However, you just have to keep working hard, we have a great squad and we know where we want to be.
“I’ll just keep chipping away, trying to be part of that and hopefully I’ll take my chance.”
Veteran striker Grant Holt is one reason why Graham has found it difficult, but he said: “Even though I’m 28 I can still learn from a guy like Grant. He’s great on the training ground and around the club.
“Grant has said someone is going to take a doing from us – and I think he is right.”