IT MAY not be the most popular view among those in the away end at Tynecastle this afternoon, but Jordon Forster would prefer it if derby rivals Hearts could stay in the Premiership.
With the Hibs fans selling out their allocation for today’s derby and planning to enjoy a good gloat over their opponents’ impending relegation, the young defender says he and his team-mates will be focused on winning the three points that will accelerate that fate, but he won’t revel in the consequences.
“You have to approach the game professionally, but I do know a few of the Hearts boys and it’s not nice seeing friends go through what they are off the pitch,” he says. “On the pitch it’s a different story… for 90 minutes you aren’t friends. If you win the game and get three points, you have done your job. You can talk afterwards.”
There is no saving Hearts now. A season in the Championship is a certainty in all but arithmetic at the moment but, while Forster understands the reaction of some of the Easter Road fans, he doesn’t share their delight.
“It’s a difficult one to say ‘would you rather Hearts weren’t in this position?’ But I’ve always said openly that, personally, I like to play in big games in front of loads of people at good stadiums. Ask any footballer if they would rather have a derby or not and they’d say, ‘Yeah, I want to play in a derby’. That’s my personal opinion. People might say it’s wrong that I don’t want them to go down, I’d rather play in big games. I’d rather there was a derby next year.
“Stuff goes on between fans. If Hearts get relegated, Hibs fans will cheer. But come next season, when there is no derby to look forward to, I’m sure fans will miss it. I’m sure the Celtic and Rangers fans miss the Glasgow derby.
“For Scottish football in general, it would be a loss. But nobody, apart from Hearts, could affect what has gone on. It will be a loss because Scottish football will be without two massive derbies, but we need to get on with it.”
Given that Hibs have won just one game in 12, they cannot completely rule out being dragged down into the play-off mire, which is why sentiment will be sidelined this afternoon.
“In the back of your mind, everyone knows what the league table looks like, so we can see we could be dragged in. But that’s not our focus. We are solely focused on ending our bad run, putting on a good performance and getting the win our fans deserve. It’s more the fans that will be focusing on the other side of it. Fans will say there is a lot more riding on this game but, as a player, you try to block that out. It’s a derby, it’s Hearts at Tynecastle but you have to be as professional as you can. You need to get your preparations right during the week and treat it like any other game.
“You come to work every day and, like anyone, when work’s not going well, life’s not going well. If you’re losing games and things are going badly on the pitch, it affects everything else around your life. It’s been hard for four or five weeks but all you can do is work hard to put it right and, hopefully, on Sunday we can show that to the fans and give them what they deserve.”
Pressure to win will be massive this afternoon, with Hibs fans desperate for something to hold over their foes but, despite Forster’s youth, he is wise enough to know that everything is relative. The centre-half, who has been filling in at right-back in recent times, made his debut in the derby last term, so he knows how to harness the nerves.
“We won 2-1 and, if we could do that again, it would be great. I remember losing my first header to Michael Ngoo that day and I thought, ‘Oh no’. But I won the next one and we had a good battle that day. I’m a lot more mature now. A week in football is a long time, so a year has made me mature a lot. That victory set us off on a good run and we want to do that again this year. Hopefully, a win on Sunday will give us a good momentum.”