THERE can rarely, if ever, have been a time when Edinburgh’s two senior clubs were at such a low ebb.
Hearts began the new SPFL season with the historic handicap of minus 15 points after going into administration in June, while Hibs kicked off their league campaign with a heavy burden of their own – the 9-0 aggregate defeat by Malmo which has given them the unenviable record of having the worst aggregate loss of any Scottish club in European football.
The playing staff at both clubs cannot help but be aware of the downbeat mood that surrounds their workplaces, but Hibs defender Michael Nelson, for one, is sure that the teams will be able to put all gloomy thoughts behind them when they take the field at Tynecastle tomorrow. “I don’t think it’s really going to have anything to do with what goes on with the 22 players on the pitch,” the centre-half said yesterday. “Off-field circumstances don’t really come into play in a lot of normal games, let alone in a derby.
“I don’t think any players will be going on the field and 30 minutes into the game be thinking ‘My club’s in turmoil’. I think they’ll be worrying about the few thousand fans that are probably screaming at them. Whatever’s going on around the training ground, around the clubs, whichever club that is, whether its Hibs or Hearts, goes out the window. It’s just 11 against 11 for an hour and a half on Sunday.”
Nelson was unbeaten against Hearts in his three games against them for Kilmarnock, including a victory on his only trip so far to Tynecastle. “If it goes the same way I’ll be very happy,” he added. “I think we were under the cosh for quite a large portion of the game but came away with a 3-1 win. I’ll take that.”
With so many arrivals and departures at both clubs during the summer, however, Nelson knows it will be hard to predict how things will turn out tomorrow. “The Hearts team has changed, but the Hibs team has probably changed quite a bit since they were last there as well.
“That’s just the nature of the game: people move on and people come in. So very rarely do you go out and play two derbies with the same starting 11 two seasons in a row.”