With a congested fixture list over the festive period, there are a lot of sacrifices made by footballers which can sometimes be overlooked. However, you must maintain your professionalism and focus on the job in hand which is to win football matches.
Whilst the majority unwind and enjoy the festivities with their families, training on Christmas Day or an early night on Hogmanay is a regime most professionals learn to accept as part of their job specification.
The Christmas period can provide a mix of emotions as you are often left wondering what lies ahead, and that, for Hibs, is a basement battle with Inverness on Wednesday night followed by a crucial Edinburgh derby five days later. However, I think if you were to ask any player who has played professional football in late December if the experience was worth not eating as much turkey as you would have liked, I’d expect most to come to an agreement that it most certainly was. It is only when your career draws to a close that you realise how fortunate you’ve been to have forged a career with a ball at your feet.
Over the next week or so, most clubs’ squads will be tested to the limit with the hope that injuries or suspensions have no major bearing on the fixtures played. It also brings the opportunity to recruit some new additions, a process I hope to see unfold at Easter Road. The manager will hope to have the strongest side at his disposal going into such a crucial few weeks of the season. But for me personally, this decision should be based on individual form and who is most likely to prove a stern test for the opposing side. Many a time one or two players have not shown the form required to compete in the early stages of the SPL but we have to remember the duration of the season does not resemble that of a sprint but a marathon.
Despite us not having much in the way of success this campaign, things can change very quickly in football. Our focus should now centre around trying to put some pressure on the teams around us. I stated in my previous column that gambles need to be taken on both personnel and the formations the manager sets out for the players taking to the field.
The result at Tannadice on Saturday now makes our clash with Inverness even more important in achieving victory. I have little doubt the 90 minutes on Wednesday night will prove to be a nervy occasion for both the players and supporters. But everybody inside Easter Road must look to take a deep breath and handle the occasion. Inverness will arrive looking for the three points which would put both Hibs and Dunfermline in real trouble and ease their relegation fears in the process. We must, however, trust the players and management to achieve the required result.
I cannot remember a game that holds such importance so early in a season than our fixture with the Highlanders. The Edinburgh derby will look after itself and is always an occasion both sets of supporters look out for at the beginning of the season when the fixtures are announced. One thing we can be sure of is the troubles behind the scenes at both clubs will all be forgotten when the respective captains lead their side out on to the turf for the hugely popular New Year clash.