HIBS keeper Ben Williams has never won a cup in his professional career. But he knows there would be no better time to break his duck.
Williams has had a career that has seen him play for sides such as Manchester United, Coventry City and Cardiff City but, so far, silverware has eluded him.
The 30-year-old is well aware of the fact that his side seem to be cursed by in the Scottish Cup. The Hibs players and management are reminded on a regular basis about their failure to lift the trophy for 111 years, by supporters who are desperate to see the drought to an end, by the media and of course by fans of their arch rivals Hearts.
Williams would love nothing more than to rewrite the history books by bringing the Scottish Cup back to Easter Road – but mention any chance of a ‘hoodoo’ and you’ll get short shrift.
Williams will take his place between the sticks for Hibs tomorrow as they travel to Rugby Park for the quarter-final of the William Hill-sponsored Cup competition and hopes that his side will be able to book their place in Monday afternoon’s draw for the semi-finals.
He said: “I don’t see it as as hoodoo. People talk about it and it’s one of those things, 111 years, but we’ve won the League Cup [three times] during that period and that’s the same format with the same teams.
“Hopefully we can win it this year and that will be it done and dusted and nobody will mention it. There’s been a rebuilding process going on since the summer and you join clubs to be part of that.
“If that means winning the Scottish Cup then you’ll go down in history. I’ve been to FA Cup finals as part of the playing staff with Manchester United and they’re fantastic occasions for everyone involved.
“This is what you want to be involved in as a player and it’s what we’re striving to do. I went to Cardiff when we played Millwall and that was a fairytale for Millwall to get there and play a top side.
“It’s a bit like Bradford City taking on Swansea City [in the Capital One cup final] last week. It’s what cups are about and what supporters want to see.” The cup run has been a welcome distraction from the league, with Hibs lying sixth and still fighting to ensure they keep their place in time for the split, and Williams would love to give the club’s supporters success in both competitions. “The interesting thing with the league is that it’s a race to the split and you’ve got the cups along the way. It keeps it going and keeps you sharp when you’re involved in both because you’re always striving for that next win to progress in the cup or get to the top six,” he explained.
Perhaps not surprisingly, given the humiliation of last season’s Scottish Cup final when Rudi Skacel and Hearts romped past them 5-1, the lack of success in the cup is not a subject players want to spend too much time dwelling on as a unit.
“We don’t talk about having not won the cup for so long in the dressing room. The supporters talk about it and as a player you’re aware of it but we’re all of the same opinion that it’s just a cup at the end of the day.
“It’s unusual for a club of our size not to have won it for so long. It’s a strange situation given our size and stature but 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 for a long time so they know all about it and as a player you’re made aware of it.
“It’s massive for the fans. It’s bragging rights when you win cups so if we can give them something to proud of after such a wait then we’d love that.”
Tomorrow’s match against Kilmarnock will be the two sides’ second meeting in the matter of just a few days. Their league clash at Easter Road on Wednesday night ended in dramatic fashion when three late goals inside three minutes saw them share the spoils in a 2-2 draw. Although he would have been happier with all three points, Williams believes his side will take great heart from the way that they twice came back from behind.
He added: “We might get a lift from the way we came back against Kilmarnock in midweek. We let ourselves down when we conceded as quickly as we did after equalising but we can take a lot of positives from the game. We dominated large parts of the game and played well when we had the ball with good possession and good passing. I’d just like to see us capitalise when we’re on top in the game.” Hibs will have done it the hard way if they beat that jinx and lift the cup this season, having already faced Hearts and Aberdeen in the fourth and fifth rounds.
It’s water off a duck’s back for Williams, though. “If you want to get to the final then you have to beat the best teams so it doesn’t matter when you face them.
So not only would a Scottish Cup win bring Hibs’ miserable record in the competition to an end, it would also mean a first chance to lift a piece of silverware for the Easter Road keeper. “I’ve never lifted a trophy of note in my career. From a personal point of view it would be fantastic and I’m sure there are other lads who are the same in the dressing room. The highlight of any players’ career is to lift a trophy. I’ve never been close to winning a cup.
“I’ve only been on small cup runs in England with lower league sides but 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’re just 90 minutes away from the chance to re-write history if you reach the final.”
Tomorrow’s challenge against Killie looks set to be even more daunting with the Ayrshire side’s addition of Kris Boyd to their squad and the striker being likely to make his debut second time around.
Boyd back at Rugby Park after his first, highly successful career with the club between 2000 and 2006, comes with an undeniably significant record in the Scottish goalscoring charts although he has played little football since a disappointing spell in the United States with Portland Timbers – scoring just seven times – but Williams will take it all in his stride, no matter who provides the main threat for the opposition.
The Hibs keeper has an enviable record up against penalties this season but says he’ll do no more homework than normal.
“I’m aware of Kris Boyd. I haven’t seen him play much but we’ll just have to deal with him. There are more and more players coming back to Scotland – James McFadden for example – at Motherwell.
“The penalty saves have been a bonus to the season for me. 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.
“I’ll do my homework before the game on Kilmarnock along with the video analyst.”