Pat FENLON has backed his Easter Road stars to keep their cool amid the white-hot cauldron of tomorrow’s Scottish Cup derby clash with Capital rivals Hearts.
Supporters of both sides will be working themselves into a frenzy, Hearts fans intent on goading their rivals following their 5-1 mauling in last season’s final while the green and white army will undoubtedly taunt their near neighbours about the financial crisis which has hit Tynecastle in recent weeks.
But while admitting the intense atmosphere will undoubtedly transmit itself onto the pitch, the Hibs boss insisted his players won’t get caught up in the occasion and will maintain their discipline as they set about trying to end the Jambos’ unbeaten derby run of 12 matches which stretches back some three-and-a-half years.
Fenlon has branded his side’s humiliation “an irrelevance,” pointing out that many of those who wore a green and white shirt that day are no longer with Hibs as he’s forged a new-look team which has soared from second bottom in the SPL table to second top since May.
Adamant he’s set about planning for the match as he would for any game, the Hibs manager said: “We have to prepare the team best we can as we do every week, give them a game plan, how we want to play and how it can affect the opposition.”
However, Fenlon revealed he’ll also touch on discipline over the 90 minutes. He said: “We will speak to them about discipline, how you prepare yourself and how you behave on the day a little bit more, making sure everyone behaves in the right manner and we keep everyone on the park which is important. It’s about striking a balance. We want to make sure we start at a good tempo and that we are competitive without stepping over the line.
“As a player you have to deal with it, it’s part of being a footballer and I think we have dealt with that quite well.
“Late in the game against
St Johnstone on Wednesday night it got a bit feisty but our discipline was good. We have a good group in relation to that, I don’t think our disciplinary record this season has been too bad and that should help.”
And with a nationwide television audience tuning in for the 3.30pm kick-off, Fenlon admitted he was happy to have everyone talking about Edinburgh’s two big clubs rather than the Old Firm.
He said: “I think the game has taken on a whole new meaning this year with the absence of a big Old Firm derby with Rangers no longer in the SPL. So this is probably the biggest one now in the Scottish football calendar and I think it is good for the game – we want big games – and I think it’s great people are talking about the two big Edinburgh clubs rather than the big Glasgow clubs.
“I think everybody is looking forward to the game. Again, though, we can only enjoy it if we win it, but it’s definitely something that we’re looking forward to now.”
Meanwhile, Fenlon has poured cold water on speculation linking Scotland striker Kenny Miller with a return to Easter Road during the January transfer window when he hopes to add to his squad with his already stated priority being to hang on to loan signings Leigh Griffiths, Jorge Claros and Ryan McGivern.
He said: “We haven’t spoken to anybody in relation to Kenny Miller. The honest truth at the minute is that there is nothing in it. We are actively looking for players and obviously we have a few players whose loans are up in January and we need to have targets if we can’t renew those.
“We can’t control what happens in the media in relation to players but we are doing our homework to try to bring in players and strengthen the squad if we can.”