Why Hibs boss Jack Ross' comments after the Celtic defeat should encourage fans - going to the Old Firm and challenging is the expectation
Jack Ross doesn’t just want his Hibs team to be competitive against the Old Firm and get a pat on the back
It is becoming a common theme this season among the 10 Ladbrokes Premiership sides below the Old Firm. That of travelling to Parkhead or Ibrox and being content with damage limitation.
Get in and get out without hammering.
Few teams have been unable to avoid it. St Johnstone (7-0) and Ross County (6-0) were seen off with ease by Celtic, while at Ibrox, Hearts, Aberdeen and Hamilton have all been thumped 5-0.
Hibs too, of course, came back along the M8 on league business with their tail between their legs, losing 6-1 to Steven Gerrard’s side back in August.
So when John Beaton blew the full-time whistle to bring Celtic v Hibs to an end, there were a number of amongst the Easter Road support shrugging their shoulders, already switching their focus to Friday night when Rangers come to town under the lights in Leith in front of the TV cameras.
While it is only logical fans weren’t keen to dwell on a defeat to Celtic, one which wasn’t embarrassing, there was also a sense of contentment.
‘Ach, only lost 2-0. I’ll take that,’ is something which some mused 24 hours ago.
You can understand such a view.
We are all football fans and with it comes cynicism, especially when making the trip to Celtic or Rangers. The worst is often feared, especially at Parkhead.
But, let’s face it, it’s a rubbish attitude, even taking into consideration the chasm when it comes to the respective wage budgets.
We, as fans, are all long enough in the tooth to know that the Old Firm are there to be defeated, to be challenged, at least on a one-off basis.
The ‘sit in and hope for the best’ is a miserable way to approach the game. You are just waiting to get beat as a few teams can attest to.
Sometimes as the game unfolds that can happen if Celtic or Rangers are playing at full throttle. But in the main we want to see our team go there, stand tall, show no fear, no respect even.
The good news is that Hibs boss Jack Ross’ attitude is one of bravery rather than cowardice.
After the game he said: “I’ve said this to the players. I don’t want us to have a mindset that we are happy to come to places like this and have a pat on the back and say you were competitive but you lost the game.”
So many managers use the excuse – an easy one to protect against their failings – that the team ‘won’t be judged by performances and results against the Old Firm’.
It’s a 12-team league! At least six of 38 games almost given up if that is the attitude.
Stronger, forceful, gallant Hibs
As fans you shouldn’t allow a manager to hide behind such an excuse or give credence to it yourself.
There should still be an expectation of putting up a fight and getting something. When it doesn’t materialise it doesn’t mean the team, the players, the management are immune from criticism.
Especially a team like Hibs who should be fighting for a European spot every season and bloodying the nose of the Old Firm regularly, as they have done already this campaign when Celtic dropped their first points of the season at Easter Road.
The club have a manager in place who wants to show that the team have balls in Glasgow, otherwise he wouldn’t have played with two strikers for so long against the league leaders.
The game plan didn’t work out. Neil Lennon’s 3-5-2 forced Ross into a system change and they just didn’t quite wrestle back a bit of control until late on.
Still, it is a positive sign and message going forward that he expects a stronger, more forceful, more gallant mindset when facing off against the Old Firm.
The good news is that he and his team have a chance to show it once more on Friday.