What Hibs taught Shaun Maloney and how ‘soft’ Edinburgh derby fears were eased

Fears that his men were too soft to go head-to-head with high-flying Hearts were laid to rest when the pair met in February and the Leith gaffer believes there is even less likelihood they will be out-muscled when they go toe- to-toe today.

Living in the city and meeting fans, as he headed into that first capital derby, Maloney was quickly appraised of the intense desire for a win, but what he also discovered was that there were many, even within the clubs’ own support, who feared they were not up to the fight.

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While Hearts enjoyed superiority in terms of their league position, it was the perception that the Gorgie side packed some extra clout on the pitch which unsettled the Leith club’s fans and they did not shy away from sharing their concerns with Maloney.

Shaun Maloney learned of his side’s physical attributes and competitive desire in the last Edinburgh derby. (Photo by Ross Parker/SNS Group)

In the end, although neither team could land a knockout blow, delivering the second 0-0 stalemate of the season, the Easter Road gaffer was relieved to see his men hold their own in a match both teams played on the front-foot.

“What was really impressive from my team was that, maybe, speaking to supporters before the game, they had a real concern about Hearts being physically dominant against us.

“And, I actually felt we matched them physically. That was a big thing for our fans.

“And I feel we are physically in a better place now than we were then.

Shaun Malney. (Photo by Ross Parker/SNS Group)

“So what was a really big worry for our support going into that match, was one of the really big positives to come out of it.

“If they thought that [we were soft then], I don’t think they do now. The physicality of the team against Dundee United last weekend was as high. Physically our data showed it was as high as it has been all season so the players have worked extremely hard and couldn’t be in better physical condition.”

Today, at Tynecastle, Hibs are fighting for their top-six status, the lure of Europe and another league derby before the season concludes and while Maloney has a preferred style of play, he knows it is worthless if his men are unable to stand up to challenge as well as scrutiny.

“I would give credit to both sets of players for maintaining that intensity for 90 minutes. It literally felt like for every minute of that game, neither team took a step backwards.

“Competing is one of the aspects of the game I love.

“Players can make mistakes in games but the bare minimum they have to do is compete and I think that’s what I loved in the last performance, even from some of our most technical players.

“Joe Newell was just a monster, physically, in that game. And how we tried to press Hearts out of possession…they did the same but that was a really big thing for us, we felt that physically we matched them. That had been a big worry for the club – externally, really.

“So you’re asking if I learn things from my players. In that last derby, I learned a lot about my squad in terms of competitiveness and desire not to lose.”


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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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