THERE was no reason to take offence when Alan Maybury’s first words upon sitting down yesterday in front of reporters were to announce he would “far rather be on holiday”.
The Hibernian full-back could think of many better things to be doing than pondering a two-legged tie against Hamilton Accies on which the Easter Road club’s top-flight status hinges.
The same goes for every Hibernian player. However, they are engaged with a task in which they will be required to expend every last ounce of effort, starting tonight. Rather than shrink from the challenge, Maybury has urged his team-mates to embrace it. “You need to go and play and express yourself and stick your chest out and be confident,” he said, which, after just one victory in 19 games, might be easier said than done.
However, Maybury has no time for those who trade in gloom. Indeed, the Irishman admitted yesterday that his frustration with those who seek to portray Hibs in a negative light recently boiled over. Terry Butcher, his manager, took the brunt of this outburst as the 35-year-old vented his frustration. “For too long there has been a negativity about this club – it needs to be lifted,” he said. “I said to the manager: ‘I am sick of it!’ I understand the consequences of these games but we have an opportunity to try and be positive and confident.”
A desire to focus only on positive thoughts can sometimes make one appear to look delusional. However, Maybury pointed out that he is sorely aware of the dire nature of the situation. What frustrates him is that the infrastructure is in place for Hibs to flourish.
“We are on a bad run of results, there is a doom and gloom about the place,” he accepted. “But this club should be doing a lot better. Instead of everyone having their heads down and worrying about things, we have an opportunity to go out and play, rather than go into our shell. An opportunity to stick our chests out and show what we can do. The fans will back us but only if we give them something to back, so it works both ways. We need them on our side to lift the whole place.”
The supporters will certainly be present in good numbers this evening. Indeed, they could make up almost half the crowd. The synthetic pitch at New Douglas Park will take everything out of the visiting players who, while refreshed after an 11-day break, might need some time to reach the intensity required in a match situation. Hamilton, by contrast, have played twice and won twice since Hibs were condemned to 11th place in the Premiership by defeat against Kilmarnock.
“It is not a factor,” said Maybury, regarding the surface on which tonight’s first leg will be played. “I think a few of the boys will have played on Hamilton’s pitch this season, either through the under-20s or they have played there before.
“We knew whoever we were going to play would be on that surface so it was never going to be an excuse.”