Kevin Thomson: Hibs need Holt and Cummings to beat Hearts

Jason Cummings scored to bring Hibs back into the game in last season's Scottish Cup tie at Tynecastle. Picture: Greg Macvean

Jason Cummings scored to bring Hibs back into the game in last season's Scottish Cup tie at Tynecastle. Picture: Greg Macvean

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They were both on the bench last weekend against Ayr United. But I will put my neck on the line and say if Jason Cummings and Grant Holt do not start Sunday’s Scottish Cup tie against Hearts at Tynecastle then it will be a difficult afternoon for my old team Hibernian.

Holt might not have convinced everyone in the Hibs support but he provides something Jason does not – not yet at least.

Kevin Thomson in action against Hearts in the Scotiish Cup last season before his important clearance off the line. Picture: Greg Macvean

Kevin Thomson in action against Hearts in the Scotiish Cup last season before his important clearance off the line. Picture: Greg Macvean

Tynecastle is unique because it is such a small pitch but to get your team up the park you still have to get hold of the ball. That’s something people still have a question mark over Jason about.

Putting the ball in the net is his natural talent. But if he was to play up there with a Martin Boyle or a James Keatings then it could potentially play into Hearts’ hands. Hibs need Holt up there too.

He can rough up the two centre-halves and with Jason feeding off the scraps Hibs have a great chance of winning.

I sometimes worry about Jason, my old team-mate and friend. He has the tools to be whatever he wants. I just hope he does not reach the age of 28 and is still ‘just’ the guy who puts the ball in the net.

It sounds strange but it has to be about more than that. He will still have a good career. Goalscorers always have good careers because putting the ball in the net is a special knack.

But I saw something Kris Boyd said recently. He mentioned that as the Rangers No 9 his job was putting the ball in the net. Yet as the Rangers No 9 he has admitted himself how frustrated he was not to start some of the very biggest matches, like when we got to the 2008 Uefa Cup final.

Boyd is the best goalscorer I ever played with but he suffered from the perception he could not bring others into play. Jason, in time, could have the same problem. Wherever he ends up, he could find himself on the sidelines for the biggest matches if he cannot develop this side of his game. He has time on his side but needs to start working on it, I have told him that.

Physicality will be a key factor on Sunday – it always is in derbies. I can’t see it being much of a game of football. Callum Paterson’s horrendous injury and the one suffered by John Souttar are significant setbacks for Hearts – I wish them both well. But new signings Aaron Hughes and Tasos Avlonitis might well have made the Hearts backline slightly more robust.

Their back four has not got the exuberant young talent like Souttar anymore. I am a big fan but he takes chances on the ball. Hearts now have more experience and a greater hardiness in defence. Sometimes bad injuries can force you to bring in people to cover and it can work out in a positive way, which looks to be the case at Hearts.

That’s certainly how it seemed against Rangers and at Motherwell, which is always a tough, physical game.

Under Robbie Neilson, and through the transition brought about during the Gary Locke era, they fielded younger players. It was possible to bully a Hearts team. But they have flipped that coin again and are big and physical once more. If you want to beat Hearts you need to be prepared for the physical battle. We were struggling on that front in the first half of last season’s Scottish Cup tie, when Hibs drew 2-2 at Tynecastle.

I remember thinking I probably would not get on the pitch. Then Dylan McGeouch got injured and I got my chance. I was on the right of a diamond-shaped midfield. It was the first time I’d played that position in my life, never mind a derby!

Within ten minutes of coming on the pitch, I’d hardly touched the ball – and we were 2-0 down. I was thinking to myself that if anyone had doubts I shouldn’t have been re-signed I was proving them right. Then I took it upon myself to prove those people wrong.

I took the centre after going 2-0 just to get a touch of the ball! Before half-time I played a couple of good passes to split the Hearts midfield. That was a talking point between myself, Anthony Stokes and Liam Henderson at half-time; ‘they are the passes that will hurt them’.

There was belief we could still get something from the game. We got back to 2-2 and then came that goal-line clearance. We could potentially have been beaten 3-2 after coming back from 2-0 down– typical Hibees!

The post was my job. The chance came after Niklas Gunnarsson almost scored an own goal – he sliced a clearance off the bar and out for a corner. I was just in the right place at the right time. If I hadn’t come on then Dylan would have done the same, I am sure – it was his job too.

As a player I always tried my best to anticipate what is about to happen.

I watched the flight of the ball as it came over from the corner. It was up to me to react. It was my time.

Blazej Augustyn got a good connection but I was there to head the ball off the line back into the mix. It ricocheted around a bit more. It would have been terrible luck if the ball had still ended up in the net.

Thankfully it didn’t, particularly in view of what happened a few months later.

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