MOTHERWELL manager Stuart McCall has expressed disbelief at the “strange” decision to ban Motherwell fans from bringing their drum to Easter Road.
Hibernian have told Motherwell fans they cannot bring the drum, which is a floor tom, to today’s match because of complaints from both sets of fans following their meeting in August. Hibs say they have banned “snare drums” for being too “intrusive” and McCall is disappointed his players might not have the backing of their most vocal fans, some of whom have threatened to boycott the game. When told of the details, McCall said: “Is this a church? Are we talking about a football ground? A drum was too noisy? If that’s correct in this day and age, when the clubs are doing everything to get supporters through the turnstiles? The lads that do come along with the drum, both home and away, make it a far better atmosphere.
“Regarding it being too noisy, I think that’s probably a wind-up. Whether it’s because Hibs don’t want us creating a bit of atmosphere and backing the team but I think it’s sad. If that is the case and there’s a lot of Motherwell fans not going, I think that’s really disappointing, especially in the size of stadium Hibs have got.”
It may be a big stadium, but it hasn’t been kind to Hibs this season. No matter how poor Hibs’ home record has been over the past year or more, however, there is no fear factor for the squad in playing at Easter Road, according to Jordon Forster. Hibs could hardly register a win at their own ground last year, and this season Terry Butcher’s team have won just four league matches at home. But Forster believes that if there was an issue there, it is now firmly in the past.
“People talk about being scared to play at home, being scared to play a football match. It’s a game of football,” he said. “You have to go out and enjoy yourself, and if you’re scared you won’t enjoy yourself. If you’re not enjoying football, I don’t understand why people would play it.
“There is no fear at all going on to play at Easter Road, for me personally. And I can vouch for the rest of the boys, no-one’s scared to play at Easter Road. Certainly not. People always talk about the record at Easter Road, but it’s a record because it’s in the past. I think people spend far too much time on it. It’s happened, so there’s not a lot we can do about it. It’s a big pitch and players like to play on big pitches and try and pass the ball. I wouldn’t say it’s difficult to play on. Results haven’t been good and you can hear the fans after games – they’re entitled to their opinions. As a professional football player you need to be big enough and strong enough to take criticism and get on with it.
“We need to try and be a little bit more brave. Try and get on the ball more and not. I wouldn’t say hide, but maybe we were being a little bit too direct. Maybe some of us need to be more brave, and get on the ball and look to pass it more.”
Hibs play on that big pitch today knowing that a victory against Motherwell will take them level on points with St Johnstone, their rivals for the last place in the top six. With the teams meeting at McDiarmid Park in a fortnight’s time, Forster is sure Hibs can put pressure on their rivals. “Every game’s important, but the game in Perth against St Johnstone is going to be a big game for us, [but] we’re solely focused on Motherwell on Saturday and, if we get the three points at home, it stands us in good stead going into a busy couple of weeks. Right now, the position we’re in, top six is what we’re aiming for. But Hibs is a massive club and we’re definitely more than a top-six club. With the facilities we’ve got and the supporters, we should be challenging for fourth, third, second, specially with Rangers out the league just now. But, right now, top six is what we’re aiming for.”
Of course, if Hibs lose the next couple of games instead of winning, they could be dragged into the fight to avoid the play-off place. They are five points clear of Kilmarnock and St Mirren with a game in hand over both, but Partick Thistle and Ross County are just another point behind those two. Forster insisted, however, that his team’s precarious position is not a concern. “No, it’s not a worry. You’re always aware of the teams round about you. But we’re looking up rather than down. Obviously the performances haven’t been good enough, and people start to question the teams coming up behind us, but we’re solely focused on Saturday. If we get the three points, which we’re aiming to do, it moves us away from them and closer to St Johnstone.
“The performances picked up for seven or eight games, and they haven’t been good enough of late. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why, because if we knew why we’d stop it. All you can do is work hard to try and get back to those performances. You can’t click your finger and say ‘I’m going to play this week, we’re going to pass the ball well, score three goals and keep a clean sheet’. It’s not as easy as that. But we’re working hard out there to try and get things right and stop conceding as many goals, especially at home.”