Hibs skipper talks Scottish Cup, Euro dream and Rangers challenge

Joe Newell is ready for Cup quarterfinal action.Joe Newell is ready for Cup quarterfinal action.
Joe Newell is ready for Cup quarterfinal action. | SNS Group
Hampden glory would rob city rivals of guaranteed UEFA group stage football

Lifting the Scottish Cup would be a career highlight in most circumstances. Guaranteeing UEFA group stage football as a result must be viewed as a nice bonus. And if that European prize came at the expense of your nearest and dearest rivals? Oh well. Into each life a little rain must fall …

Hibs skipper Joe Newell laughed out loud when reminded that, should Hibs emulate their 2016 Cup win this season, the knock-on effect would be – at the very least – a place in the group stages of the UEFA Conference League. The fact that Hearts, almost certain to finish third in the Scottish Premiership, would be eased out of that guaranteed Euro bonus, worth a minimum of £5 million for starters, is hardly a disincentive for Nick Montgomery’s men.

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“Definitely, exactly,” said Newell. “That would be nice…whoever is sitting there!

“That’s obviously the added incentive. For the club and the finances it’s huge. It would be amazing to get back into Europe; we loved the little run we had this year, albeit not getting into the groups.

“So if you won the Cup and got guaranteed group stage football it would be amazing. Initially my thought would just be to win the Cup, the legacy you would hold from that would be enough in itself.”

Asked if he thought winning the Scottish Cup would be a bigger achievement than finishing third, the midfielder declared: “Definitely. If you give me the two, I’d rather win the Cup.

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“The one thing I want to do most is win a cup here. I’m desperate for it, to be honest. We’ve had so many near misses, so many opportunities where you look back and ask yourself: ‘How did we not do the job there?’

“So I’m desperate to win a cup with Hibs and, obviously, the Scottish Cup is the main target. You win that, you down in history.

“We’ve got a few boys here who did it in 2016. They still talk about it being the best memory of their lives. Winning the Scottish Cup is my personal ambition, the one thing I’d love to achieve here.”

Admitting that he doesn’t even know what he’s done with his one senior medal – for winning the Football League Trophy with Peterborough a decade ago now – to date, Newell said he simply wasn’t one for keeping memorabilia.

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“But the Scottish Cup is one I would do anything to win,” he admitted, adding: “No matter what happens in my career or a lot of people’s careers here, if you win the Cup with Hibs, it would be one of, if not the greatest achievement of your career.”

First, of course, Hibs have to get past Rangers in Sunday evening’s quarterfinal at Easter Road. No minor feat, for a team who have played two, lost two, scored nil and conceded seven in their head-to-head encounters with Philippe Clement’s men this season.

Newell doesn’t downplay the difficulties, acknowledging: “Obviously the gap is big. There is no getting away from that. The finances are there in black and white, aren’t they? The gap is huge, really.

“But because you play each other so much up here, you can figure things out. Motherwell the other week would have looked at their previous games in the season, come up with a game plan – and pulled off a result that wasn’t so much a shock, but one you wouldn’t expect.

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“If you have a game plan and you look at your recent performances against them, there are always ways of getting results. We just haven’t done that enough, recently, against Rangers.

“Attacking wise, our boys are as good as anybody in the league. We had a big turnaround in January. A lot of of change, new players coming in, some leaving, so it was never going to click overnight.

“The lads coming in weren’t playing every week, otherwise they wouldn’t be getting shipped out on loan or whatever. They needed time to get up to speed.

“But, in the last couple of games, you can see the real quality they’ve got and what they can bring to the game. For us, it’s about trying to get that out of them as best and as often as we can.

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“Emi Marcondes is quality on the ball, you can see that. You’ve seen it in glimpses where he has been very, very good.

“His first game was at Kilmarnock away and we were saying to him: ‘Listen, this is going to be a tough one. First 20 minutes you might not get as many balls into the pocket and it’s a horrible pitch and they go man for man’. And he went out there and he’s flicking it over people’s heads within five minutes!

“So he has real quality and all the boys who have come in have done really well. It might have taken them a couple of weeks to get up to speed, but they’ve all settled in really well.

“And their attitude has been really good. I think that’s always a bit of a worry for me when you get loan players in, where their mindset is and their attitude towards the club, because we’re in a sticky situation in terms of needing to get into the top six. So they’re coming in at a crucial time, but their attitude and commitment has been really good.

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“The belief is there. We know that, if we put a performance in, we’ve got more than enough to come away with a win. It’s been a long time since we beat Rangers (2021) – but that’s something we’re looking to change.”

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