Stevie Mallan tells new Hibs team-mates to prepare for Rangers cauldron
Stevie Mallan has warned his new Easter Road team-mates that they will find tomorrow a real eye-opener when they step out into the cauldron of Ibrox.
The Hibs midfielder admitted he was a bag of nerves, his “mind going everywhere” when, as an 18-year-old, he first endured that particular experience, his ever-lasting memory the sheer noise created by 50,000 Rangers fans.
But while adamant Paul Heckingbottom’s summer signings won’t have encountered anything quite like it, Mallan backed them to thrive in the frenzied atmosphere.
“They’ve all heard stories about how loud it is,” he said. “That’s one thing I noticed the first time I ever played there. I was at St Mirren, it was a Friday night, the opening game of the Championship season – and a sell-out crowd.
“The noise really opened my eyes. I’ve become accustomed to it, the more I’ve played. Those are the places I love playing, massive stadiums where you can show your quality. You have to be on your top game to get a point or get a win.”
During a solitary season with Barnsley, Mallan played at grounds such as Villa Park, Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium and The Den at Millwall, experiences newcomers such as defender Adam Jackson will also have enjoyed.
However, Mallan believes that won’t quite prepare them for what lies in wait in Govan. He said: “I played at great places down at Barnsley, but I don’t feel any of them compare to the atmosphere you get at Celtic, Rangers, Hearts, Hibs – the atmosphere and the numbers here are great.
“That will open their eyes, the ferocity of the game. The fans in Scotland never give you a minute, especially away from home. They’ll let you know exactly how bad you are. I think tomorrow might be an eye opener to the level they’re at. And I think they’ll really enjoy it.”
Hibs had to be patient before eventually breaking St Mirren’s resistance on the opening day of the season but, insisted Mallan, the Capital club won’t be going to Ibrox to similarly shut up shop and hope for a point.
Highlighting Hibs’ decent record against Rangers recently, he said: “It was three draws and a defeat last season and there were a couple of times, especially at home, where we felt we should have got a win. It just shows you the sort of games they are, 50/50 and end-to-end.
“Normally when a team plays the Old Firm they will sit in and play a more counter-attacking style. But the good thing about the manager here is that, no matter who we play, we’ll play exactly the same way. That’s what you’ll get tomorrow.
“You need to embrace the challenge of going to a place like Ibrox. If you want to show the qualities you have on a personal level, then you need to prove it at the top end and against the best teams in the league. If you want to do well as a team, you need to go there without fear. These away trips only come round a couple of times a season and you need to be at the top of your game.”