Scottish Cup: Sibbald keen to impress mystery man Holt

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CRAIG Sibbald was one of the young Falkirk players who had to Google Gary Holt when he was appointed as the Bairns’ new manager.

Holt enjoyed a good career north and south of the border as a midfielder for Kilmarnock, Norwich and Nottingham Forest, among others, and was capped ten times for Scotland. However, even to those who followed his career, the 40-year-old was a surprise choice to replace Steven Pressley, who left for Coventry City last month.

Holt, who arrived in his first manager’s job after coaching for three years as assistant academy director at Norwich, officially started with the Irn-Bru First Division club on Monday and is this week preparing his new charges for Saturday’s William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final against Hibernian at Hampden.

Midfielder Sibbald, 17, and some of the other members of a youthful Bairns squad had to do some modern-style research on their new gaffer before he arrived in the dressing room.

“We had never heard of him when we found out a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “So we were all looking at him (on Google) on the bus on the way to one of the games.

“It’s a bit different for me. This is my first change of manager, but he is the same as the former gaffer – he likes to work hard so nothing has changed there and hopefully we can get a win for him.

“But we are just trying to focus on getting through to the final. We are all feeling quite positive now. We had a rough start to the season but we have picked up in the last five or six weeks, so hopefully we can keep it going.

“But Hibs got beat at the weekend so they will be looking to get a win. We know it will be a tough game but we can’t wait.”

Sibbald hopes to go one better if he makes his second semi-final appearance at Hampden by getting a touch of the ball. He was only 16 last year when he came on as a late substitute in the 3-1 Scottish Communities League Cup final defeat by Celtic and time ran out before he could make any sort of impact.

Sibbald, who scored his first goal of the season in Falkirk’s 4-0 Irn-Bru First Division win over Cowdenbeath at the weekend, added: “I was 16 at the time and it was brilliant. As soon as I got on I tried to get a touch of the ball, but the whistle went a bit too quickly, although I enjoyed it anyway.

“Those couple of minutes gave me the taste of it and I want to play a lot more.

“The Falkirk fans came in their numbers, so the atmosphere was quality and it was good experience for me. These opportunities don’t really come round that often.”

One memorable opportunity for Sibbald was the one which took him, along with Falkirk team-mate Jay Fulton, for a trial with Manchester United last May.

“It was amazing,” he recalled “The facilities were unreal. It gives you the incentive to work hard every day in the hope that you could maybe one day reach that level.

“On one of the days we played in a reserve game. Jay and I were either side of Anderson in midfield.

“I scored both goals in a 2-0 win. One of them was among the best I’ve ever scored. It flew in the top corner but Sir Alex Ferguson missed it. Someone told me he was away buying a horse.”

For now, Sibbald is focused on Hampden. “I have played 90 minutes in both the last two games, so hopefully that puts me into contention for this week,” he said.

“You never know if it will be your last time at Hampden so I’m determined to do my best if selected.