HIBERNIAN midfielder Paul Cairney dedicated the club’s victory in the Highlands to tragic young clubmate David Paul – and vowed to do it all over again tomorrow at Easter Road.
A sense of shock and helplessness among the Hibs staff and players gave way to a resolute determination to gain a Boxing Day victory in the 18-year-old’s memory. Cairney, who set up two goals in the Dingwall triumph, said the players had felt driven to win in honour of the youngster and for his grief-stricken parents.
There was an emotional minute’s silence at the Global Energy Stadium on Thursday afternoon and that will be repeated before a much bigger home crowd tomorrow.
Cairney spoke of a resolve among the Hibs players to dedicate a stirring home win to young Paul and his family. The 26-year-old Glaswegian said: “The win in Dingwall was for David Paul – and I’m sure the boys will want to go out on Sunday and do it again. Everyone is shocked and shaken by what has happened. It is just a terrible shame and we just want to send his mum and dad our very best.
“There is not a lot we can do as footballers, but we wanted to go out and win for David and his family. He was a really nice boy and I really couldn’t believe it when I heard what had happened. Football doesn’t mean much when something like this happens but we wanted the three points for him and his family and we are looking for three more this weekend.”
Cairney and his team-mates found themselves stranded at the Broxden roundabout near Perth as the team bus broke down en-route to the Ross County game. There was a routine-wrecking 80-minute wait for a replacement coach, which gave time for reflection and, Cairney feels, helped re-focus the players on the game.
He said: “The team bus broke down at Perth and we had to wait for a wee while for another one, while getting an early pre-match meal. It wasn’t a big deal, really, and it actually gave us a chance to get our focus back on the game. Thankfully, we got the three points.”
Hibs scored twice at County – a feat they hadn’t achieved in a single match since late September. Only Celtic have defeated the newly-resolute Hibs since Terry Butcher’s arrival and Cairney acknowledged the Englishman’s arrival had been transformative.
He said: “To score two, at last, definitely gives us all a lift going into the Killie game. We just want to go out there and enjoy our football and score as many as we can. The gaffer has given us a solid foundation, but he likes us to get the ball forward quickly and back it up from there. We just need to keep working hard every day on what we do in the last third.
“I’m sure if we do that, we’ll get there. Since the gaffer has come in, it has been excellent. He has captained England and Rangers, so you immediately have a lot of respect for the man.”
The former Partick Thistle and Queen’s Park wide man’s ability to fizz dead ball deliveries into dangerous areas was showcased in Dingwall. Cairney, however, preferred to give credit to the scorers, Michael Nelson and Jordon Forster, who both showed grit and courage to connect with the ball. He added: “They were both great headers. We do need to score more from open play but I’m sure that will come.”
Butcher is now eyeing a hat-trick of festive victories, with Kilmarnock and then troubled Hearts in his sights.
The Hibs boss said: “We’re at home and we want to win at home in front of our fans. We want three wins out of three, with two wins at home. We have the Hearts derby coming up as well, but the big one is on Sunday. We can look forward to both games with a lot more confidence now.”
Goalscorer Forster, meanwhile, is happy to play in any position as long as he continues to hold down a place in the team. The last three matches have seen the 20-year-old deployed at right-back, rather than his more familiar centre-half role.
Forster said: “Getting to grips with a new position is always hard. But I’m a hard worker and will work hard to learn the position as quickly as I can.”