Kevin Thomson believes Hibs are strong enough to gun for a league and Scottish Cup double this season.
The 32-year-old former captain was on the books at Easter Road at this point last year when Alan Stubbs’ side were in contention to win three different competitions. In the end they had to settle for Scottish Cup glory as they lost the League Cup final to Ross County and saw their bid to overhaul Rangers in the Championship title race hit the buffers amid a spring fixture backlog.
Unlike last year, however, Hibs are currently in a position of command as they sit eight points clear at the top of the league, while they have a far lighter fixture schedule, with no rearranged games on the horizon and no League Cup to contend with.
The Easter Road side continue their defence of the Scottish Cup with a fifth-round trip to city rivals and Hearts on Sunday week, and Thomson is adamant no-one at the club will be viewing the competition as a distraction.
“Promotion is obviously the priority but, if I was part of that dressing-room, I’d be wanting to go for both,” Thomson told the Evening News. “They’re already in a really good position in the league, so there’s no reason they shouldn’t be looking to win the cup again. If they get past Hearts – and they’ll fancy their chances of doing that – then it would only be another three games on their schedule if they were to go all the way.
“I know last year the cups took a bit of a toll on our league form, but it is totally different to this year. Last year, we were chasing in the league, we had a League Cup final and we also had a backlog of league games which were scheduled for midweek later in the campaign. Even if getting to the final this year meant a few extra midweek games later in the season, I think the experience the boys had last year would make them able to cope better with it than they did last year.”
Outwith Celtic, Thomson believes Hibs, who have beaten Aberdeen, Hearts, Rangers and St Johnstone within the past 18 months, can be counted among the favourites to retain the Scottish Cup. He believes manager Neil Lennon, a serial winner as player and manager at Celtic, will have his eye on the prize as well.
“Hibs have shown over the past few years that they can beat any team in Scotland apart from Celtic on their day, so if they get past Hearts, there’s no reason they can’t go all the way,” said Thomson. “I don’t think anybody would fancy drawing Hibs. The players have won the Scottish Cup and I’m sure they’ll be wanting to win it again. When you win trophies, it makes you want to win more, so those boys who won it last year will want to win the league and they’ll want to win the cups. That was the mentality we had when I was at Rangers and Lenny will have the same mentality. He was a winner at Celtic and he’ll want to be a winner at Hibs.”
Thomson was influential in both matches against Hearts at the same stage last season. He came off the bench at Tynecastle to help Hibs dominate the second half as they fought back from 2-0 down to secure a replay and then played the full 90 minutes of a hard-fought 1-0 win at Easter Road.
“The fact they’ve got Hearts away at the same stage of the competition as last year, sometimes you just think some things are written in the stars,” said Thomson. “It will obviously be a hard game because they’ve got some really good players as well as a lot of new boys we don’t know too much about. But in some ways I think it helps Hibs that it’s at Tynecastle instead of Easter Road. All the pressure is on the Jambos and they lost to Hibs last year. For Hibs, after what happened last year, the pressure’s off, to an extent.”