The Hibs head coach is well aware of the mutterings among his club’s support following a disappointing run which has left them without a win since the opening day of the season and only two points ahead of the Jambos who sit at the foot of the Premiership table.
Following his team’s last home match against St Johnstone Heckingbottom talked of the “anxiety” which had fed from the stands and on to the pitch as the Saints levelled in the dying seconds.
But, he insisted, the home support, which will outnumber the visiting fans by more than four to one, has a massive role to play in what is certain to be a nerve-ridden affair.
“It can kind of be forgotten how much a part fans can play,” said the Yorkshireman. “you want them to be a 12th man, just like when you are away from home and you know you can quieten fans and get then anxious and get them turning, you can help create some apprehension in the team.
“Fans are massively important. We hope, we expect, it means as much to them as anyone at the club. They pay their money, it’s their team, it’s in the blood, it’s bragging rights and everything else that goes with a derby.
“Never mind 12th man, I want them to be 13th and 14th man as well. It is really important for us.”
Having said that, Heckingbottom admitted it was up to his players to set the early tempo and get the fans in those three stands behind them. He said: “You say it all the time.
“You speak to players about cheap wins, easy wins. Chasing a lost cause, making a tackle, putting someone under pressure. In any game that gets a cheer, the fans appreciate that.
“But in the derby it can be even more significant and can raise the atmosphere, especially early on in the game when you can get the momentum.”
Heckingbottom believes there hans’t been enough of that intensity in Hibs’ past two matches, defeats away to Motherwell and Kilmarnock without a goal scored.
He said: “That’s been a criticism. I won’t name individuals, but some of the goals we have conceded have been soft. In the last two games, from box to box, we have been in control of the ball a hell of a lot in terms of what we have worked on.
“But it means nothing if you’re not out competing and fighting as well. That is just going to be intensified even more in a derby. That’s an expectation and a demand, if you like, for tomorrow.”
Given the overhaul he has conducted on his squad over the summer, Heckingbottom could have a fair number of players enjoying their first taste of a derby Edinburgh-style, and admitted he had shown them clips of what to expect.
However, he said: “It’s a game of football. Everyone has played in big games, they have all played in derbies. There’s a different feel to this, we are in a different coutnry, we are in a one city derby, they’re not all like that and they do feel different to play in.
“But you have got to experience it. You learn in these games who responds in them, lots of players respond in big games, lots of people like them because there’s a different adrenaline. Yeah, you can talk about it when you walk on to the pitch but you don’t know until people step over that white line.”
Once they do so, revealed Heckingbottom, they will be on their own with anything he might try to convey from the touchline drowned out by a 20,000 crowd. He said: “When it is really intense you can work on lines of communication across the pitch - but it might be irrelevant by the time it gets over there. If it is as noisy and as raucous as you want it to be, it’s difficult to pass on information.”