AIMING for a third successive Scottish Cup final, Hibs’ ultimate target is undoubtedly winning the trophy for the first time since 1902, but with several rounds still to go, the immediate objective is simply getting past Raith Rovers on Saturday.
In November the Leith side safely negotiated their fourth-round tie with Ross County, ending a poor run of results which included six games without a win. They go into this one of the back of three wins and a draw, hoping that they can regain the winning feeling.
Given their performance for the majority of their most recent match, against Celtic, most will expect them to do just that against a side sitting mid-table in the Championship, but in the dressing-room, they know they will have to work hard to progress in the competition. “We are not getting ahead of ourselves,” said midfielder Liam Craig. “We thought the draw was opening up in the League Cup after Morton put Celtic out – then we lost to Hearts. So it is all about this game on Saturday and making sure we are in the hat for the next round.
“[Raith] have good players there; Liam Fox and Kevin Moon in the middle of the park who are really good footballers. I played with Kevin Moon at St Johnstone for many years and he is a top player. We played them in pre-season so we have had a wee look at them, but it is all about Saturday and we have more than enough to win the game if our attitude is right and we approach the game correctly. Even from working with Terry [Butcher] and Mo [Maurice Malpas] for a short space of time, there will be no complacency – we won’t be going into the game thinking we just need to turn up. St Mirren proved that if we are not at our best week in, week out then we will get found out, like we did in the first 25 minutes of that game.”
The St Mirren match was one of the recent slip-ups in the league but since then the squad has been bolstered and there is competition for places.
“Daniel [Boateng] has come to the club, along with Danny Haynes and young Duncan [Watmore]. And they have come here to play games,” says Craig. “The squad was still a good squad but we have added to that. I played with Danny Haynes seven or eight years ago at Ipswich and he is direct and powerful and scores goals. From what I have seen they are excellent and will really add to the squad. That is only going to be healthy for the squad. Even looking back to the Celtic game, Sam Stanton came in on his debut and was excellent, while Alex Harris is getting back to where he was a year ago. Things are looking up and it is about getting back to winning games now.” With such a big monkey on the club’s back when it comes to this tournament, it is perhaps no bad thing that Craig believes that joining up with Haynes again could be a good sign. “Danny was in the squad that won the FA Youth Cup at Ipswich and you only need to look at where his career has gone – Barnsley, Bristol City, Charlton, really big clubs down in England. He is going to bring that experience and quality and I can’t wait to see what he is going to do for us.
“It’s not a bad omen. Danny scored a good few important goals for us on that cup run as well. I was the captain at Ipswich, as I am here, and it finished pretty well so it would be nice to do that again this season.”
In football there is always the need for success and the desire for vindication. For managers the need is to see the team tactics and player selection proved right, for players they want to show why they chose one club over another.
“I came to the club because I want to be successful. People still ask me why I left St Johnstone after finishing third to join Hibs. But you look at games like the New Year’s derby, a full house at Easter Road with the place bouncing, and that is what you want every week. It’s important to get back to winning games and getting fans back through the doors because losing seven goals in the last two games is not good enough – although 4-0 against Celtic was a bit harsh, with Fraser Forster coming out with so much credit.
“You can’t affect what has already happened. It is all about looking to the future and winning games.”