Hibs can beat Hearts at Hampden, says Mixu Paatelainen, as he hails return of leader Ryan Porteous
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The Finn has experience of beating Hearts as a player and manager of the Easter Road side, and he was heartened by the first-half display by Shaun Maloney’s side until Andy Halliday’s equaliser on the stroke of half-time set the tone for the second half.
"Saturday is a day for guys with proper attitude. It’s exactly the same as when Hibs went to the Scottish Cup final [in 2016]. Not too many people believed they would win it but they did,” Paatelainen says.
“It’s up to the players, it’s up to the whole team. It can be done, no question. Hibs were the better team in the first half on Saturday and if they play at Hampden the way they played in the first half last weekend, they can beat Hearts.”
The likely return of Ryan Porteous in defence for Hibs can make a big difference too, according to Mixu, who sees shades of another young Hibee in the 23-year-old centre-back.
“He is a strong player for Hibs. A leader at the back, he demands from others. It’s important when you play that there is someone who whips everyone else – you need that,” the former Hong Kong boss continues.
“Players develop differently. Some are young, but are leaders – Scott Brown was young at Hibs but he was a leader, which I spotted early doors.
"Some develop that leadership later in their career. It is important that players stand up for that role and you have guys who whip the others as well as encourage and support – the more the merrier. Ryan is still relatively young, but you need leaders, and he is one.”
Hibs have a young team currently, save for older head like Paul Hanlon, Darren McGregor, and Lewis Stevenson, but Paatelainen believes success comes down to confidence.
“If you are not confident on the pitch then you are not going to be a leader out there because you want to concentrate on your job. If you know your exact job within the team then your confidence rises and you are more able to support the others and talk.
"Everything comes from the training ground. Everyone knowing their work, coaches going through their job, practising the role and being comfortable with them. If you are dominant in your area of the pitch then there is every chance you can help those around you."
Character is important too, and there were plenty in the Hibs team of 20-odd years ago that included Mixu.
"It was a set-back not to qualify for the top six. Hibs will have been gutted that it was a derby loss but that’s when strong characters are needed, to prove everybody wrong.
"When I played we had a fantastic record against Hearts, we had a team-full; every player in every position was a strong character,” he recalls.
"Coming into derbies we had to believe, and we did. I think it plays a big part, but it’s also a manager’s job, to create that, and instil that.
"I’m sure Shaun will have the team ready. I think the players have something to prove to make it right.”