Liam Craig believes Hibs have the players to silence a packed Ibrox tonight and send their own tiny pocket of 950 fans singing all the way back to Edinburgh.
After being blighted by an internal strife which has torn the Govan club apart, prompting supporters protests both inside and outside the ground, Rangers boss Stuart McCall described the atmosphere generated by the biggest crowd of the season as they watched the Light Blues squeeze past Queen of the South in the first of the play-off ties as akin to that of his own playing days.
The 48,035 gate is likely to be surpassed tonight, but while visiting supporters will be tucked away in a corner of the ground, Hibs skipper Laim Craig insisted it’s up to him and his team-mates to make sure their voice is heard.
Craig, who watched a Lee Wallace goal earn Rangers a draw on the day and a 3-2 aggregate win on television, said: “In the first half-hour especially I thought Rangers were excellent. The crowd turned up as well. Ibrox was full and it will be the same tonight, so we know the atmosphere is going to be great. But it is up to us to go there and make sure it’s our fans who are shouting.”
And while Rangers fans were at full throttle against Queens, there were moments, particularly when Derek Lyle opened the scoring for the Doonhamers, where that backing quickly turned to jeers.
McCall’s players left the field at half-time to a chorus of boos, something to which Craig and his team-mates became accustomed as their season disintegrated a year ago, although such displays of displeasure have been few and far part this time round.
The midfielder said: “A lot of pressure comes playing for Rangers and Hibs at Easter Road. The fans expect a lot and rightly so. I think it is our job to silence as many of them as we can. We know they will want to start the game quickly and get the fans on their side, but we have enough quality players in our team to cause Rangers problems.
“It’s a great arena. The atmosphere will be incredible, but these are the games you want to play in, a 50,000 sell-out and hopefully to come back with a result and another sell-out at Easter Road.
“These are two massive games for Scottish football and, I think, two games not only the clubs are looking forward to, but a lot of neutrals as well.”
Hibs have won twice already at Ibrox this season, enjoying a 3-1 victory and then triumphing 2-0, displays which, Craig declared, showed not only is Stubbs’ side capable of playing the stylish football which has won them many plaudits, but of grinding out a result.
He said: “It shows we can go there and deliver performances and results. I thought in the first game we were excellent and in the second we probably did not play that great. But we showed a different side to us, that when it is not going the way we would like we can dig in and get a result.
“But I don’t think what has happened is going to play a part tonight. We’ll be going with a game plan we think can see us take a positive result back to Easter Road.”
Craig, of course, was one of those Hibs players who endured the nightmare of last season’s play-offs, dropping into the Championship after surrendering a two-goal lead gained at Hamilton. He insisted, however, that today bears no resemblance to then, a fact he puts down in great measure to the cool, calm and collected way Stubbs goes about his business.
The former Falkirk and St Johnstone player said: “I don’t want to talk too much about last year – I think enough has been said about that.
“Last year was difficult in terms of we couldn’t see where a win was coming from. This year you don’t need me to tell you how different it is both on and off the park.
“I think the club is in a great place just now, a great group of players, a great management team and it is exciting times ahead. If we can go to Ibrox tonight and get a result I thin you will see the response in the stands on Saturday.”