WITH six games still to go before the split, Hibernian know their fate is in their own hands. Do well enough, and they will be in the upper half of the division for the first time in four years.
The biggest single match in the coming weeks will be the one in a fortnight at St Johnstone, who are currently in sixth place, three points ahead of Hibs. Before then, however, Terry Butcher wants his team to exert the maximum pressure on the Perth side by doing as well as possible in the coming games, starting with tomorrow’s home match against Motherwell.
“If we have any aspirations of the top six then we have to take advantage of the fact we can move level on points with St Johnstone if we win,” Butcher said, referring to the fact that St Johnstone have a free weekend. “We want those three points and we want them badly. Hibs have not been in the top six for a long while – three years for a club of this size is a long while.”
If his team are to get the three points, however, Butcher knows they will have to improve considerably on their last outing, the 3-1 defeat by Dundee United a week ago. “We gave away crap goals, poor goals, silly goals,” he added.
“Dundee United are a side that will cut you open – but they didn’t need to as we shot ourselves in the foot by giving away penalties and being rubbish on the ball. We expect more and we expect better.
“It’s not about what we didn’t do, it’s about what we are going to do as we can’t change what happened last week. We have four away games after this, culminating in the Hearts match, and we want to make sure we do well.”
Hibs visit Inverness on Wednesday then are at Partick Thistle a week tomorrow. Then comes St Johnstone, then the derby, and only in their final pre-split match, against Aberdeen, are they at home again.
That lack of home games would often worry a manager, but Butcher is aware that at times his team have felt under too much pressure when playing at Easter Road. “Perhaps it is easier for Hibs to play away from home,” he accepted.
“As a manager I used to come to Easter Road and say quieten the crowd in the first 20 minutes and get a goal if you can and then see what they do after that. You would do that at any away ground.”
Motherwell were excellent last week, beating Hearts 4-1 on a heavy pitch, and Butcher is full of admiration for the club he used to manage – in particular, for James McFadden. “Faddy’s wonderful. I remember him with that little rat’s tail down the back of his neck. I was going to chop it off and Dirk Lehmann was going to chop it off when he was there.
“We go back a long way and it’s good to see him back and playing the way he is. Last week he had a great game, an excellent game. He was allowed a lot of space to play in, but he had a fabulous game. He’s not going to go past you with his pace, but he’ll trick you and nutmeg you and go past you that way.
“It’s a smashing club, but I’ve enjoyed beating them as well. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to stand back and admire them. I want to get into them and beat them and get back on the winning trail at Easter Road again.”