Throughout a build-up which provided so much hype, passion and humour ahead of Monday’s head-to-head at Ibrox, there was always respect, according to Hibs coach Alan Stubbs.
Which is why, despite the barrage of sectarian singing which assaulted his ears and those tuning in to the TV coverage, he was happy to meet with Rangers boss Mark Warburton after the match for a beer and a blether.
“There was a long build-up to the game,” Stubbs said, explaining why he indulged in so much talk ahead of just 90 minutes of action. “I’ve got no problem with what I said and I’ll stand by it.
“To be champions, you have to deal with different elements, and sometimes that’s not just on the pitch. There’s a lot of expectation around both clubs to get promoted automatically this season. There’s definitely more pressure on Rangers to do that, just because of the stature and size of the club.
“We’re a club that have got the same aspirations. We’re trying to put a spanner in the works. And I’ve got to say there’s been comments from both camps. I think it’s been perceived that it’s been all us, but if you look in the weeks before there were a few comments coming from the Rangers camp as well.”
Stubbs considers noising up rivals to be part and parcel of the battle but he knows everyone has their own way of doing things.
“You have to respect that we may be different characters. Mark is the one who will play things down, I might be a character who plays things up. You don’t want two managers who are drab.
“But I don’t want for me to be made out to be the bad guy. I’ve got a lot of respect for Mark. We had drink and a chat after the game. He’s not my best mate, but I respect him – a lot.”
Many believed there was little evidence of that in the Ibrox stands where sectarian singing provided a sour backing track. It irritated Hibs fans and has been condemned by some observers but while Stubbs finds it an unsavoury side of the game, he chooses to view it as a perverted and misguided demonstration of admiration.
“Listen, it’s a good job I’m quite a laid-back, easy-going type of character,” he said. “You know what, it doesn’t bother me. For me, that’s respect. If they weren’t worried about me they wouldn’t sing about me. They know what we can do to their aspirations. I honestly haven’t got a problem with it. I heard it once, believe it or not, and you saw me on the side of the pitch – I didn’t run back to my dugout. I wasn’t scared of it.
“But I don’t think anyone wants to see that element in the game. We hope that we can move on from that. I think we’ve all seen the wrong side of that in the past and Scottish football doesn’t need that. But, unfortunately, you’ll always get the few that will do it and it will have a negative effect on the club. But there are good people at Rangers and to tar them all with the same brush would be wrong.”