Jason Thomson has laughed off suggestions that Raith Rovers should be “scared” to face Hibernian and insists he is more frightened of his wife than tonight’s play-off opponents, writes Iain Collin.
Jason Cummings’ comments may have been as off the cuff as his on-field displays, but Raith’s reaction has in contrast been very measured.
Trying his best not to be dragged into a “war or words”, even manager Ray McKinnon’s insistence that the Hibs striker is “irrelevant” was an attempt to assert that his players would brush off the provocative remarks and concentrate on themselves.
They may, of course, be saying differently in private, but Thomson added to the studied response when it was put to him that, according to Cummings, Rovers should be running scared of facing Hibs.
Instead, the onus was coolly passed back to the Easter Road outfit as if the Stark’s Park skipper was performing a routine training-ground passing drill.
“That was mentioned in the changing room,” he confessed.
“But it is just a game of football. I am scared of other stuff – like my missus! But not games of football. We will just treat it like any other game and hopefully things will work out.
“There is maybe a bit more pressure on Hibs, with them being the bigger club and finishing higher in the league than us. Most people will be expecting them to beat us, so I think most of the expectation will be on them.”
Expectation is not something that has weighed heavily on Raith’s shoulders this season.
Having last year finished sixth, closer to the relegation play-offs than the promotion version, the Fife club dispensed with manager Grant Murray and replaced him with Ray McKinnon. Hugely respected though McKinnon is, it still represented a leap in the dark.
Their form heading into this two-legged quarter-final is undeniable, however. Unbeaten in 11 matches and with only one defeat – away to Rangers – in their last 15, you have to go as far back as 12 January to find a loss to anyone other than the league’s runaway champions.
The impression is that even some of the Rovers players might not have imagined being in the position where they are within touching distance of taking the club back into the Premiership for the first time since relegation in 1997.
But now they are here, Thomson insists they are in no mood to allow the opportunity to slip through their grasp.
“The manager is a great motivator,” added the former Hearts full-back. “He is always harping on at us to believe in ourselves, especially at the stage in the season that we are at.
“This chance might not come along again for anyone in the squad.
“If we don’t progress and we are in the same league next season, teams are only going to get better and it is going to be harder to get into this position.
“It is just about trying to grasp it and doing as well as we can, and going and maybe pushing into the Premiership. For a team like Raith Rovers that would be massive.
“It is something that you maybe [let yourself] think about.
“But, at the same time, we have still got six games to play and it is a big ask for everyone at the club. It is a big ask for any team, to get through six games and try to get promoted.
“We start on Wednesday and we want to make sure that by the time we go to Easter Road on Saturday there is still a tie to play for.”