Hibs must ‘go to war’ in derbies, urges Farrell

David Farrell and John Burridge exchange words during a derby. Pic: EN Archive
David Farrell and John Burridge exchange words during a derby. Pic: EN Archive
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Hibs need to learn how to go to war if they are to consistently win Edinburgh derbies, former Easter Road player David Farrell has claimed.

Admitting he’s still disgusted by his own derby record – five draws and four defeats in nine games – the combative midfielder insists that while Hibs had better players in most of those games, Hearts held the upper hand because they were always ready for a scrap.

Farrell, who now writes a popular blog, claimed he hasn’t seen any change in the two Capital clubs’ approach to derby clashes since his own playing days.

In a no-holds-barred analysis of such matches, the 44-year-old wrote: “There is no question in my mind that in many of the derbies I took part in, we had better players. We had by now signed Darren Jackson, Kevin McAllister, Michael O’Neill and Brian Hamilton. So there could be no question it had to be mental, it had to be our way of treating it just like any other game.

“There would be games where we were on top and dominated and yet we still couldn’t win.”

Highlighting the “Wayne Foster” Scottish Cup tie at Easter Road, Farrell went on: “We should have won that, but they turned us over but we deserved it. Why? Because we never changed our approach to the derby.

“Granted we would occasionally change our tactics, or shape, or spring a surprise in team selection. But we never went to war. I always felt the Hearts boys treated the derby differently to us. They were going to war, primed for a battle while we were going to play football. I never felt as a team we were as fired up as Hearts were.

“They were snarling and scratching at you from the tunnel on to the pitch. They were pressing all over us, people like Sandison, Black, Kidd, Mackay, Levein and Robertson, galvanising and pushing each other. Make no mistake, they were angrier than us. They were ready for a derby, ready for a scrap.

“That’s how they did it and the longer it went on without beating them the more difficult it became mentally as well as physically.

“I just wish we could have been sent out with a different message than believing that, because we felt we had better players, our football would win in the end.

“We should have gone toe-to-toe with them, man against man, warrior against warrior because, believe me, there were times when that was all that Hearts team did against us.”

Farrell believes little has changed in the intervening years, especially with Craig Levein now director of football at Tynecastle and another derby veteran Robbie Neilson head coach.

He said: “I wouldn’t expect it to change this weekend. I would never dream of trying to tell Alan Stubbs how to do his job, he has far more experience at a higher level that I have both as a player and a coach.

“I know one thing, I know the game and I know how not to win an Edinburgh derby. If Alan wants to stick my blog up on the dressing room wall as a motivational tool that helps the current crop of players to that elusive victory, or just use it as toilet paper before the game then I’d have no problem with either.

“But they’d better be ready for a war of monumental proportions. Because I know Hearts will.”