Hibs must embrace 'intimidating' Ibrox as Jack Ross calls on SPFL to address away crowd stance
Jack Ross has a decent idea of how it will feel to walk out at Ibrox on Sunday, surrounded by a swell of home fans and very little Hibs support.
The Hibs boss is preparing for a top of the table clash with Steven Gerrard’s men and he is well aware that a difficult task has been rendered all the more onerous due to the away fans’ lockout in Govan. But, he says he is able to draw on past experiences to hopefully guide the Leith side through their latest challenge.
“I went to Ibrox when I was Alloa manager and there was the trophy presentation and I think there were between 20-30 Alloa fans there, and a sell-out Rangers crowd.
“So I have actually been in a very similar atmosphere as an away manager, and we went ahead in that match!
“Look, it’s one for us to embrace and look forward to. It will be intimidating but one the players will enjoy.”
Rangers continue to use the need for a covid-19 safe zone around the technical areas and the subsequent reallocation of their own season ticket holders as an excuse for locking out travelling fans, but the Hibs manager warns that unless things return to normal soon the game is in danger of losing one of its greatest selling points.
“Hopefully it's something as a league we address soon because I think it's unhealthy for the league in general.
“Overall, without talking about any clubs specifically, one of the parts of Scottish football that’s so attractive is that the geography of the country means people can travel to away fixtures relatively easily.
“Subsequently clubs have always enjoyed good travelling supports. People have looked at it as part of the football fabric in Scotland - away days have always been a big deal for fans and I would hate for us to come away from that. It would spoil a part of our game that’s so good.”
While Rangers refused to accommodate Celtic fans in the first Glasgow derby of the 2021/22 campaign, Hibs fans travelled across the city to face capital foes Hearts and Dundee United allowed Dundee fans into Tannadice earlier this month, generating a thrilling atmosphere at both those matches.
“The Edinburgh derby was a case in point,” said Ross. “Even our recent matches against St Mirren and St Johnstone, the fact they had their fans in the stadium adds to the intensity of the match.
“I would hate to see no away fans as a regular thing.
“I do think that those in charge of football in the country should be proactive at ensuring that doesn’t become the norm.”
And, with Hibs watching from Easter Road, where the club have arrange a special beamback, Ross says the players will be well aware of the need to deliver.
“We understand the responsibility we carry all the time to try and win games for the supporters, irrespective of whether they are in the stadium or not. We carried it a lot last season when there were no crowds at all.
“So given the fact there will be a crowd inside Easter Road we want to make it a special one.”