Hibernian manager Paul Heckingbottom has issued a rallying cry to his players ahead of Saturday’s lunch-time kick-off against Celtic.
Hibs will first face Kilmarnock in the Betfred Cup on Wednesday night whilst Celtic host Partick Thistle. However, a tough trip then awaits Neil Lennon’s side when they visit a not-so-happy hunting ground in Leith this weekend.
Heckingbottom has come under serious criticism for a dreadful start to the season. Despite getting to the Betfred Cup quarter-finals, Hibs have won just one of their opening seven Premiership matches. That came in an unconvincing 1-0 win over St Mirren at home on opening day.
And after Sunday’s shock Edinburgh derby defeat at home, Heckingbottom has plenty to answer for. But as he spoke to the Edinburgh News, the Hibs gaffer has encouraged his men to fight.
“Any top level sport, the most important aspect of it is mental. Without a doubt, the most important aspect. You go through times, we’ve all done it, I have as a player and a manager, when things aren’t going your way. You’ve got to stand up.
“What you can’t do is sit and wait and hope to win the next game. You have to fight with everything you can to win it. Not just me, every player and every member of staff. It’s a collective.
“Sometimes you don’t get what you deserve, but over a longer period, you will. So you just have to fight.”
Celtic must be wary – Hibs still have talent
It’s been an incredibly poor start to the campaign for Heckingbottom. It remains to be seen if he’s even still the Hibs manager come Saturday should he lose tomorrow night at Rugby Park.
But in any case, Celtic can’t just pitch up at Easter Road and expect a walk in the park. This is a Hibs side still containing the likes of Florian Kamberi and Daryl Horgan. Players who have shocked Celtic in the past when we believed we were just turning up in Leith and taking what we wanted.
In addition to that, Hibs have a real talent on their hands in Scott Allan. Even if the former Dundee United youngster didn’t make it at Parkhead, he’s a serious dangerman. He makes Hibs tick, and Celtic’s back-line can’t afford to switch off when he gets into the number 10 position.
At the back, it’s still much of the same. Lewis Stevenson, Ryan Porteous, and Paul Hanlon all played vs Hearts. But at the end of the day, we still know the quality they possess when they’re on their game.
Hibs have tended to raise their quality against Celtic in recent years, especially at home. Celtic haven’t won any of their last four league trips to Easter Road since they got promoted. This Saturday could easily still prove to be one of our most difficult matches so far this season.
Heckingbottom may be under serious pressure, but the rallying cry has been launched. If Hibs respond well to it on Wednesday night, Saturday could be trickier than many may think.