Joe Newell laughs off 'heroic' return to action as Hibs midfielder talks Hearts semi-final and Aberdeen test

Joe Newell laughs as he speaks about his return to action for Hibs in last weekend’s Scottish Cup quarter-final victory over Motherwell.

The midfielder had heavy strapping on his knee and there was talk of him being rushed back with Jake Doyle-Hayes ruled out as the Easter Road side posted a 2-1 win to advance to the last four.

“I was desperate to get back last week. It wasn’t a big heroic return as if I’d not trained for six weeks and gone out and played, I’d trained all week and wanted to play.

Hide Ad

"I had strapping on my knee but I’d had that on all week. It was more of a precaution. I was fine and ready to play. When you’re injured, no-one enjoys it. Watching the lads every week, I was dying to get back out there so I was really pleased to do that.”

Newell in the thick of it against Motherwell's Dean Cornelius

The backing from the 3,300+ Hibs fans in the away end certainly helped Hibs secure their spot in the semis.

"The fact that it was a big game – a quarter-final – with so much at stake, meant it was a great one to come back in,” Newell continues.

Hide Ad

"The atmosphere was electric. We sold out the whole away end.

“It was just a proper cup tie. To be honest, when they got a lad sent off right at the start I was absolutely buzzing as I knew it was going to be a little bit easier for me on my first game back!

Hide Ad
Joe Newell is relieved to back on the pitch after a lengthy time out injured

“It was a good game to get back for and luckily we got the win.”

Hide Ad

‘I knew we’d get Hearts...’

The 28-year-old isn’t perhaps known for his Nostradamus tendencies but reveals he called the cup draw right from the start.

Hide Ad

“I said earlier that I just knew we’d get Hearts. To play them the week after we go to Tynecastle… it’s hopefully going to be a really good week."

Newell's last league game came against Hearts - and he's looking forward to facing them twice in a week next month
Hide Ad

Newell played in the delayed Scottish Cup semi-final against Hearts at Hampden in October 2020 in which Liam Boyce’s extra-time penalty sent Hearts through to the final after Christian Doidge had cancelled out Craig Wighton’s opener. With no supporters in the national stadium it was an eerie experience.

“I’ve been lucky that, since I’ve been at Hibs I’ve been to Hampden in every cup competition.

Hide Ad

“The place will hopefully be rocking. That semi feels a while ago now, that Hearts game. Even the way that panned out, that was a shame.

"We missed a penalty and they went up the other end straight away and got one. With the fans there it should feel a bit extra special.”

Hide Ad

Karma at Hampden

Kevin Nisbet struck his spot-kick off the woodwork but Newell, who won the award, has a confession to make.

Hide Ad

“To be honest I remember diving for that penalty so as soon as we missed it I remember thinking, ‘yeah, that’s probably a bit of karma’.

"That was a good cup tie. I feel that most of the games we have played against Hearts that I’ve played in have been quite tight, cagey affairs.

Hide Ad

"Hopefully, with a sellout crowd, the atmosphere will be good and it will go our way.”

End-of-season targets

Hide Ad

Hibs are still fighting on two fronts. One, finishing in the top four, but also hopefully winning the Scottish Cup.

"The targets at the start of the season, albeit under a different manager, were to win a cup and finish in the European places,” Newell explains.

Hide Ad

"That didn’t change when the current gaffer came in. He emphasised exactly that and stressed how much he wants to win a cup and finish in one of the European places. He spoke about how much it means to the club, financially, and in team of where we want to be. We want to be competing at that end anyway.

"We know how the season has panned out and the the points total we have got means that we have left ourselves a bit of a challenge but that what we want to be fighting for.

Hide Ad

"We want to be involved in these games and these weeks are crucial and that’s exciting to be a part of and hopefully it works out well for us. We could win a cup and get into Europe and that would be an unbelievable season – and it’s more than achievable.

“We know what we have to do and are all motivated for it. We’re looking forward to it. You’ve got to embrace the challenge.”

Hide Ad

Dons test ‘will be tough’

Speaking of challenges, Aberdeen are the opponents in a huge game at Pittodrie on Saturday. Newell was an unused sub when Hibs won up there in the spring of 2021 so he knows what it’s like to win at an historically tough venue for the Easter Road side.

Hide Ad

"There has been a change to the gaffer there and we know that Aberdeen are a good side. They have been a good, solid, strong side over the last few years and it is never an easy game up there so we know how tough it will be,” Newell adds.

"It’s going to be a crucial game and if they are to have any hope of finishing in the top six, they have to win it. We know it will be tough but it should be a good game.

Hide Ad

"The 1-0 up there, when Doidgey scored, was good. I think both clubs have been through a lot of change with managers and stuff since then.

"But there is still a lot to play for and both teams are playing for the same thing. It should be a good, competitive game.”

Hide Ad

Message from the editor

Thank you for reading this article. If you haven't already, please consider supporting our sports coverage with a digital sports subscription.