Michael Weir: I can’t remember a derby when both Hibs and Hearts bosses were under so much pressure
Given the current predicament Hibs and Hearts find themselves in, fans of both sides could be forgiven for admitting they’d happily settle for Sunday’s derby ending in a draw, the fear of losing what’s obviously a crunch match for both clubs having taken hold.
Yes, a draw might take the heat off Paul Heckingbottom and Craig Levein to a certain extent, but for me that’s simply not an option. A point isn’t going to do either side much good as their respective positions in the Premiership table clearly show.
It needs to be a win and even then I don’t think the pressure will be off. Victory in the derby is always a result to be savoured and if either side were to take the three points then, undoubtedly, their fans will be ecstatic and will make the most of the moment, with their rivals plunged into even greater despair.
As welcome as a win would be it won’t, however, mask in any way the fact that results on either side of the capital have been poor, not only since the start of this season but stretching far back into last season.
There’s been a gradual decline at Easter Road and Tynecastle which has put both managers under the most intense scrutiny and while a derby win would be a massive relief for everyone, I don’t think anyone would be fooled into thinking all the ills have been instantly cured.
As in any game there’s only the three points at stake but I honestly can’t remember an Edinburgh derby where there’s so much pressure riding on the shoulders of the managers. Hearts fans have made their feelings entirely clear with that demonstration outside Tynecastle at the weekend but Hibs supporters are also unhappy with Heckingbottom’s honeymoon period having ended long ago.
Perhaps the fact the game is at Easter Road will be welcomed by Levein and his players, by all accounts Tynecastle has become a difficult place for them in recent weeks. Winning at the home of your biggest rivals is always very sweet and if Hearts were to do so then there’s no doubt it would be a big, big result.
However, if Hibs were to win then the pressure on Levein is only going to become even more intense. But, having said that, I don’t think it could be the be-all-and-end-all for either Heckingbottom or Levein.
Their teams are going through a bad spell and this is where their skills as a manager come into play. Levein has massive experience while Heckingbottom, although he has been boss at Barnsley and Leeds United, is still a relatively newcomer to the Scottish game.
This is a week where they have to shield their players from all the outside influences, all the hype and speculation about their own personal situations and ensure they are right up for it on the day.
The atmosphere, as ever, will be electric. There will be nerves, of course, but as always it’s the team that handles that side of the game, the players that can impose themselves on proceedings that are more likely to win although, as we have seen so often before in derbies, anything can happen.
The result will mean more than the performance on the day, it will be more like a cup final than a league match and I think it’s a game that might just surprise a few people.
I don’t think many are expecting much in the way of a spectacle and while they might be right, how often does a game which you are anticipating will be a dour, attritional affair turns out to be pretty entertaining.
Both sides have looked suspect defensively so even just going on that fact might we at least see a few goals? All in all, it’s shaping up to be a very intriguing game – as will be the fall-out whichever way it ends.