Games thick and fast? That’s the way I like it, says Hibs defender Paul McGinn
The fixtures are piling up for Hibernian and head coach Jack Ross has already complained about a lack of consideration over player welfare. Paul McGinn clearly didn’t get the memo.
Two games a week will be the norm until the January shutdown, but McGinn is not complaining.
“The games are coming thick and fast so you don’t get much time to think about it,” he said. “That’s the way I like it.”
The 31-year-old enjoys the cut and thrust of matches against the Old Firm especially. It has become a spicy fixture in recent times and this game will be no different, with Rangers players stirring the pot by talking about exacting revenge for their Hampden humiliation.
A week and a half after Martin Boyle’s fireworks shot down rudderless Rangers in the Premier Sports Cup semi-final, the re-match against the Premiership champions at Easter Road will be different but equally intense.
Newly-installed Ibrox manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst was watching from the stands when Rangers team were ripped apart by Boyle in the cup clash. But the Dutchman will be in the dugout at Easter Road and has already warned Hibs to expect a very different team this time around.
He has made an impressive start to his reign, securing a place in the Europa League knockout stages by defeating Sparta Prague followed by an away win over Livingston in the Premiership and he says lessons have already been learned from the cup clash.
McGinn felt the victory for Hibs at Hampden was long overdue, particularly after running Rangers so close at Ibrox earlier in the season. He is looking forward to another high-octane cracker.
“I think it will be a tasty one,” he said. “All the games had been close for so long, you thought surely one would fall our way.
“We felt at Ibrox it might have been that way until Ryan [Porteous] got sent off, but they’ll be out to make amends.
“You do get up for them. The thing about the Old Firm is they do play football, so they let you have the ball. It’s not a go and fight for headers sort of game.
“I always prefer those games. It’s 100 miles per hour and the atmosphere is always incredible as well. So I love them.
“We back ourselves and they will as well, but the way we have been the last 18 to 24 months, we always back ourselves.
“It was just good we stopped that rot in the league at the weekend.”
Two late goals at St Johnstone on Sunday prevented Hibs from falling to a seventh straight league defeat and released the pressure valve that had been intensifying with every passing match.
McGinn believes the three points in Perth will certainly help to relieve some stress.
He explained: “It looked as if it was going to be one of those days. But we finally got over the line and it probably was a feeling of relief more than anything. But it was also deserved. It felt good to show that we can dig in and get out the other side.”
Ross knows his team will also need to dig in against Rangers to come out of the other side with another victory. Back-to-back wins over Rangers are rare, but it is a challenge he is relishing.
“For us, it’s about the same approach to the game in terms of what we did to win that semi-final and the intensity we played with,” said the gaffer. “We need to repeat that.
“We have dealt with quite a lot in this fixture in recent times. The first one was when the dugouts had a bit of a disagreement and through to the aftermath of recent games. There’s always been something. But it’s okay, I don’t mind it. I think the games have all been really good recently.
“I don’t mind Rangers players saying [they want revenge] — they are not used to losing many games. Our motivation will be the same as theirs.
“There has been a bit of an edge to the games in recent times and I would expect in the aftermath of the semi final for that to be the same.
“That helps players because I’d imagine atmosphere-wise at Easter Road night it will lend itself to hopefully the same type of game as we saw at Hampden.”
Ross, who has Boyle back from suspension, doesn’t expect huge changes to Rangers’ approach under Van Bronckhorst, which is just as well given the paucity of time he has had to prepare for this game with his players.
He said Hibs will simply seek to replicate what they got right at Hampden while adapting to the “tweaks” that the Dutchman has made to his attack.
“We’re aware of that and at least the good thing is we’ve been able to watch two games the new manager’s been in charge of,” Ross added.
“But it’s also the same personnel with the same individual qualities that we’ve faced in recent times, so although there’s some adaptations to their style it’s a group of players we’ve faced regularly.
“We’ll prepare the best we can and their threat but always doing a lot of work on how we think we can exploit weaknesses in them.
“We’ve continued with that mindset going into the game, albeit we’ve not had a lot of time on the training pitch with all the game so it’s been about reinforcing messages we’ve worked on for a long time now.
“Working with them the last few days, they feel like a group that’s going into the game in a good frame of mind.”
McGinn would agree.