Bonnyrigg Rose defender Ruaridh Donaldson conducted a recent spying mission at Easter Road to see Hibs at close quarters ahead of their Scottish Cup tie.
The youngster was in the Dundee United end a week past Friday for the top-of-the-table Championship clash, with his younger brother Coll Donaldson a Tannadice defender.
The match only served to reinforce the quality the Junior outfit will come up against in their sold-out fourth-round tie at Tynecastle this Saturday, with the Hibees running out comfortable 3-0 winners. The left-back is likely to be pitted directly against recent Hibs signing Chris Humphrey should he start, with the right winger making an instant impact on his debut against United.
“It was good because Hibs sold out about 16,000 tickets and Dundee United had about 2500, so it was a good atmosphere,” said the 23-year-old.
“Hibs were really impressive on the night, they looked really strong. I think you can see now the impact that [Neil] Lennon’s had on the team as opposed to last season. He’s really imposed his style of play, they are a real attacking team and they look good at the back too.
“Humphrey looked good, he’s very direct and fast. He looks to go on the outside of his right foot and, if I’m playing, that’s who I’ll be up against. Across the park, there will be loads of different individual battles and, if we win seven or eight of those, that’s how we are going to win the game. We’ll look to win the one-on-ones and then build from there.
“We’re well aware these guys are seasoned professionals, they’ve all played at a high level before. It wasn’t so much an awakening it was more a realisation that we are going to be playing against these guys. They are such a massive club and the cup holders. It was certainly good to see them in full flight and see what they could do on the day.”
A boyhood Hearts supporter, the opportunity to play against Hibs at Tynecastle where Donaldson’s dad, Euan, and two of his brothers are season-ticket holders, is beyond his wildest dreams. Donaldson will be roared on by around 30 of his family and friends this weekend as Rose bid to do the unthinkable.
Having knocked out Championship side Dumbarton in the previous round after a replay, Bonnyrigg aren’t just turning up for a day out, however. They are confident of giving the holders a stern test and, although playing in front of 13,000 will be new to a lot of the Rose squad, they have players within their ranks who have experienced a packed Ibrox.
“It’s a dream come true, being a Hearts fan from day one and going to Tynie all my days,” said Donaldson. “I’ve been to a few Hearts-Hibs games and just dreamt of playing in a game like that. It will be really cool just to take in that whole experience and I’ll have all my family and all my friends there supporting me. It’s just something to enjoy really. Hibs winning the Scottish Cup last season wasn’t necessarily a dream come true but it’s just added a little bit more to the game with them being the holders.
“Dumbarton are a different side to Hibs, they look to keep it a bit more compact and perhaps hit teams on the break. We kind of just out-Dumbarton’d Dumbarton. They had to come and break us down. The Hibs game will be a different challenge as they are used to breaking down teams and having a lot of the ball. We matched up well against a Championship team, so the hope is we can do that again.
“We can only really imagine what it’s going to be like playing in front of three full stands at Tynecastle.
“I know a number of the boys have senior experience – we’ve got boys that have played and scored at Ibrox. Despite being Junior football players, we do have experience in the squad of playing at a decent level playing in front of big crowds, so I think we will rely on these experienced players to perhaps calm the younger members of the team down. I think everybody will be excited by it.”
Donaldson was given a reminder of just how big the match was when he returned home to North Berwick over the Christmas period, with the youngster taken aback by the interest in the tie. Having played for his local team prior to going to university, he’s certainly come a long way in the past few years and has established himself as one of the first names on manager Robbie Horn’s teamsheet.
Donaldson joked that his fame might rise in North Berwick if they were to knockout Hibs. He added: “I was out in North Berwick for Christmas Eve and it was the talk of the town. Everyone was talking about it, asking me when the game was and the fact they were taking an interest was cool. I’m still a nobody in North Berwick, but maybe if we beat Hibs I’ll be a local celebrity!”