10 burning Hearts and Hibs questions as Ryan Stevenson and Tam McManus weigh up Scottish Cup blockbuster

It’s Edinburgh Derby day eleven again as Hearts take on Hibs at Hampden in the Scottish Cup semi finals.

The stakes are high for both sides as they seek a final meeting against Celtic or Rangers.

Hearts have European football wrapped up with a third place Premiership finish but a cup triumph could remove a bit of the dark shadow around Shaun Maloney’s Hibs tenure so far.

Former Jambos hero Ryan Stevenson and Easter Road favorite Tam McManus give RecordSport their verdict on a series of burning questions ahead of the big game.

1. How big a psychological blow did Hearts strike with their 3-1 win over Hibs?

RYAN: Psychologically, Hearts have a massive hold over Hibs. It’s been that way for a long, long time. With the two games being back to back and Hearts winning last weekend for me it just deepens that pressure upon Hibs. The players will be feeling that
I’m sure along with the management staff. What Hearts can’t and won’t do is get complacent – ​​I’m sure of that.

SIZE: Time will tell today. But the way Hearts played in the second half when they controlled and dominated the game will give them added confidence.

2. Who can be the game-changers?

RYAN: It’s not about one player for Hearts, yes people will look at Barrie McKay, Liam Boyce and others but Hearts’ strength is in their team unit. The sole reason Hearts have done well this year is down to the unity of the squad. There’s been outstanding individual performances but as a team when needed, players have stepped up. The biggest game changer will be our fans. As always when the boys need them they are there for them.

SIZE: For Hibs it can be Chris Cadden. He will relish the wide open spaces at Hampden and his delivery of it is superb. He’s probably been Hibs’ most consistent performer this season. McKay will be the danger man for Hearts. A player I’ve always liked, his ability has never been in question.

3. How do the managers fire their players with the belief this can be their day?

RYAN: I’d imagine things will be pretty simple for Robbie Neilson – go wipe the floor with this lot and make yourselves Hearts heroes. For the other side, well, penny for their thoughts.

SIZE: This really is a big team talk for Shaun Maloney. He needs to instill belief in a team fragile in confidence. They need to line up in that tunnel to a man believing they can beat Hearts. Robbie will be just looking for Hearts to play the same way as they did in the second half on Saturday.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND – APRIL 09: Hibs Manager Shaun Maloney during a cinch Premiership match between Hearts and Hibs at Tynecastle, on April 09, 2022, in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ross Parker/SNS Group)

4. Is complacency Hearts’ biggest danger?

RYAN: For all that’s been said, it’s a semi-final and a derby, so anything can happen. But there is only one team that can beat Hearts today and that’s Hearts. If the boys play the way they have been all season they have proved they are far too strong for Hibs.

SIZE: Possibly. There is no doubt the Hibs players will come flying out the traps desperate to atone for that insipid performance at Tynecastle. They owe the manager and the fans a big performance and 100 per cent effort.

5. Is there more pressure on Hibs after the top-six miss?

RYAN: All the pressure is on Hibs. I said at the start when Shaun came in I thought it would be a hard task for him, which big, brave Tam took to social media to try to slaughter me about. I let that slide because you can’t fight stupid, but it’s easy to see now I was right. Hibs have had a horrible season with not much to go on in the league.

SIZE: There is pressure on every Edinburgh Derby but if Hibs lose the season is over. With season tickets to sell shortly that could have a huge effect financially. To lose two derbies back to back also puts some pressure on the manager.

6. How do you rate the respective seasons and how much of a chance does the winner have in the final?

RYAN: It’s a massive achievement for any club out with the Old Firm to make a final. If the worst happened for Hearts, it’s still been an unbelievable season. These boys were in the Championship last season and now I’m digging out my passport for a trip round Europe.

For Hibs, I think Shaun does need time and – league form aside – they are in a semi-final with the chance of a final. But bottom six, beaten by the mighty Hearts two games on the bounce and papped out a semi-final sounds amazing to me.

SIZE: Hibs have had a poor season. On the back of finishing third last season I’d hoped the club could kick on and solidify their ‘best-of-the-rest’ tag. Selling Martin Boyle was a hammer blow as were injuries to Kevin Nisbet and Christian Doidge. That’s a lot of goals taken out of the team. Hearts have been excellent this season though it hurts to say. Robbie has built a powerful squad with a bit of everything in it.

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson is looking to see off Hibs

7. Where are the key clashes?

RYAN: Man for man Hearts have far too much for Hibs. If the 11 men that start and the ones who come on play the way they have been for the majority of the season then we have far too much for Hibs.

SIZE: The key area will be Hibs’ back three versus Ellis Simms and Liam Boyce. Ryan Porteous thankfully comes back into the team. The two Hearts strikers were superb at Tynecastle and bullied the backline. That can’t be allowed to happen. Hibs must win those individual battles.

8. Try to sum up a player’s emotions in the minutes before kick-off?

RYAN: There was no better feeling, it was euphoria. Wearing that famous maroon jersey with my name on the back of it, walking into that tunnel looking at the Hibs players up and down and knowing I was having them today, it was like an out of body experience. I just knew that’s what I was born to do. Listening to our fans singing and roaring waiting for us to come out that tunnel going into battle for them winning the game for them was all that was on my mind. I’ve got goosebumps thinking about it!

SIZE: Nerves. Excitement. I made my first ever start for Hibs at Hearts and I was s***ing myself so that could be an emotion for a few also! All I would be thinking about was scoring the winner and being the hero. You must have positive thoughts and park any negativity when you leave the dressing room.

9. How vital is it to ‘keep theheid’ and keep 11 men on?

RYAN: This is most important and maybe sometimes it was something that could get the better of me. It’s important to play the game not the occasion, do not get drawn into anything stupid and let your team down. Something I wasn’t great at.

SIZE: Crucial. You must have fire in the belly and ice in the veins. You do yourself and the team in if you lose the rag and get yourself sent off. In saying that I played against Hearts with 10 men for 70 minutes and won thanks to a late Garry O’Connor winner. But that is rare.

10. What’s your prediction?

RYAN: If Hearts turn up, which I’m more than sure they will, I can’t see anything other than a two or three goal victory. They will be unhappy at conceding the first goal last week so I’m sure they will be at it from the first whistle.

SIZE: My heart is saying Hibs to win but my head is saying
Hearts are the better side and will probably win. But I always go with my heart so I’m going for Hibs to get a big reaction from that display at Tynecastle and cause the upset – 2-1 Hibs.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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