Why should Ben Williams care about a cup hoodoo, the details of which he only learned on his arrival at Hibernian in the summer?
The goalkeeper has yet to concede a goal in the Scottish Cup. As far as he is concerned, the competition is suiting him just fine.
Next stop for him and his team-mates is a quick re-match against Kilmarnock tomorrow afternoon, when Hibs will aim to book a return to Hampden Park, scene of their most dispiriting afternoon in recent times. Williams has heard all about it, just as he has heard about the troubled relationship that exists between the club and the Scottish Cup.
Williams acknowledges that it is a “strange situation” whereby a club of Hibs’ stature has not managed to win the trophy in 111 years. “The equivalent down south would be Arsenal or Chelsea going the same length of time without winning the FA Cup,” said Williams, who started his career with Manchester United.
“People would be asking questions if that was the case too,” he added. “It’s a strange situation given our size and stature and we want to address it. When I signed for the club the staff in the media department told me all about it when they discussed the history of the club.
“There’s staff members who have been at the club a long time so they know all about it, and as a player you are made aware of it. But it is not something that weighs heavily on your shoulders.”
Williams has his own personal hoodoo to deal with. Despite being at Old Trafford for two years, the 30-year-old ‘keeper has never got near to winning a cup of any sort.
“The highlight of any player’s career is to lift a trophy,” he said. “I have never been close to winning a cup. I have only been on small cup runs in England with lower league sides, maybe only the fourth or fifth round and then you draw a Premiership side and it’s over. This is a fantastic chance to get into a semi-final of a huge cup and then you are just 90 minutes away from the chance to re-write history if you reach the final.”
Rightly, Williams has already put to the back of his mind the horror moment last Sunday at Tannadice, when he kicked a clearance against John Rankin, and watched with anguish as the ball rebounded into his net. The goalkeeper has been one of Hibs’ players of the season and has more than made up for this error with his penalty-saving heroics, having stopped five from the eight he has faced this season.
“The first goal at Tannadice [in the 2-2 draw] was unfortunate, but it can happen,” he said. “I have played over 300 games and it has never happened to me. I have been in games where it has happened to other ‘keepers.
“You don’t mean for mistakes to happen as a player but it happens and you have to respond to it and we did that up at Dundee United. We were unlucky with the penalty decision and if that hadn’t been given we’d have taken three points.
“The penalty saves have been a bonus to the season for me. You don’t set out to do that at the start of the season. I’ve probably faced more penalties than myself and the manager would have liked but it’s gone well - with a lot of hard work behind the scenes and luck involved.”
An unused substitute in midweek when the teams met at Easter Road, it could be the returning Kris Boyd placing the ball on the spot 12 yards away from him tomorrow afternoon. “I am aware of Kris Boyd,” said Williams. “I haven’t seen him play much but we’ll have to deal with him.
“I’ll do my homework before the game on Kilmarnock along with the video analyst and the goalkeeper coach,” he added.
Pat Fenlon has all but ruled out centre-half Paul Hanlon, who is still struggling with a hip injury. The manager is sorely aware of what rests on tomorrow’s game and he has already tasted the fervour and the disappointment, having won a Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden and then lost the final in crushingly disappointing manner, against their nearest rivals.
“If we could win it then it would be great for the fans more than anything,” he said. “I’m just passing through. But the fans will always remember the good and bad days so you would like to do something for them. But there’s a long way to go.”
Fenlon offered his sympathies to John McGlynn, the manager he had only faced three times in derbies prior to his departure from Hearts on Thursday. These clashes included a 1-0 win for Hibs in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup at the end of last year. “I’ve been in football clubs where there has been a lot going on, in relation to people not being paid for a long time, and it is difficult to maintain everything and keep your eye on everything,” he said. “John had got them to a cup final as well, so that’s probably more disappointing from his point of view.
“I don’t know the man, I have to be honest,” he added. “I only know him from going up against him on occasions, that’s it. But, for people on the outside looking in, it’s a difficult, difficult job, and you have sympathy for him, particularly with it being such a short spell of time.”