Hibs ignore underdog status in bid to extend cup record

Hibs Women head coach Dean Gibson believes the opportunity to retain the SWPL Cup for a record fifth time gives his players a “massive incentive” going into this weekend’s semi-final against Celtic.

Saturday, 13th November 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 17th November 2021, 10:50 am
Hibernian's Joelle Murray is hoping to get her hands on the SPWL Cup again
Hibernian's Joelle Murray is hoping to get her hands on the SPWL Cup again

He wasn’t in charge during the trophy-laden run from 2016 to 2019 when Hibs beat Glasgow City twice and Celtic twice in the finals, but many of his players were involved in the sequence of success before last year’s competition was scrapped due to the pandemic.

“Four in a row is a massive achievement and I don’t think it will be seen again,” said Gibson ahead of Sunday’s semi-final at Forthbank, Stirling.

“For us to retain it is important, and I’m pretty sure that will add an extra incentive for the players who have been here through that period. It’s a massive incentive.”

Sign up to our Hibs football newsletter

Head coach Dean Gibson does not accept that his team are the underdogs

Pulling it off again this year would top anything that’s gone before given the formidable obstacles standing in their way this time.

Even if they did manage to beat an in-form Celtic in the semi-final, there’s a better than even chance that Glasgow City – they face Spartans in the other semi-final earlier in the day – will already be lying in wait.

The Old Firm and Glasgow City have invested heavily to go full-time over the last couple of seasons, making it challenging for Hibs and the rest to keep up.

But Gibson’s team have certainly made a decent fist of it. He insists his squad simply don’t accept the underdog tag they are given when facing the big three.

Citing their last meeting as an example, when Celtic edged a 2-1 win on league duty in September, he believes his players can match the top teams.

“I think Fran sees us as underdogs,” he said of Celtic boss Fran Alonso. “He’s said enough times that they are the third horse in a three-team race, so he doesn’t see us as a threat as such.

“But we don’t see ourselves as underdogs. We approach it as a 50-50 game that could go either way. We approach it with caution and confidence.”

Hibs will certainly have to play better than they did in last week’s disappointing 3-0 home defeat by City in the league.

But Celtic were knocked off track last week too, their 25-match unbeaten run coming to an end when they lost 1-0 to Rangers in the league. Gibson isn’t reading much into that.

“We don’t really let bad results affect us,” he explained. “We just move on to the next one and we try to perform again.

“I expect Celtic to do the same. There’s nothing to suggest they won’t do that.

I don’t expect anything different from Celtic. Even when they win games, they are aggressive, play on the front foot and try to control the game. I don’t think last week’s result will have an impact on that.”

Alonso agrees. He is confident that his players have the mentality to bounce back quickly.

“It is really important that we get up and keep going,” said the Celtic head coach, who has some concern over the fitness of goalkeeper Chloe Logan for Sunday.

“We show every week that we are, mentally, super strong and that we will do whatever it takes to succeed.”

Hibs will be out to do the same.