Brian Graham rarely returns to Cappielow without earning the attention of the Morton boo boys. But, as Hibernian head west today, the Easter Road striker anticipates he won’t be the only one subjected to a hostile reception.
“I always remember when I was starting playing football a very good mate said to me, ‘when they start to sing you are a w****r’ you know you have done something right,” said Graham.
Asked if he thought manager Neil Lennon would take some of the pressure off him by attracting the majority of the stick today, the player who started his career in Greenock nodded knowingly.
“Yes, probably,” he said, aware that the acrimony that followed the brawl at the end of the sides’ most recent meeting, at Easter Road, ten days ago, is likely to prompt a response when the teams meet up this afternoon.
“I got a bit of stick last time I was down there so I suppose I will get it again. I got dog’s abuse but that’s part and parcel of the game. It’s banter.”
Matters exploded beyond regular banter when the rivals for the Championship title clashed in Leith recently. The match ended in a draw but the final outcome of the fracas that tainted the conclusion of that contest is still unknown. Lennon, his Morton counterpart Jim Duffy and assistant Craig McPherson have been charged with misconduct and, along with both clubs, must answer for their actions at a disciplinary hearing on 20 April.
But Graham says that will have little impact on what happens on the pitch today. “Everyone asks you, fans stop you in the street – ‘what happened, what’s gone on’ – but with due respect we’ll see what the outcome is and take it from there.
“You just have to be professional. What happened happened, we can’t change that. We have to fully focus on the football side of it. Keep cool heads.
“It’s that time of the season, with boys coming back from injury, everyone in the dressing room wants to be part of it so a red card or yellow cards are daft at this time of the year.”
Darren McGregor was red carded during the recent match for an alleged headbutt on Morton’s Kudus Oyenuga but having reviewed the footage, the powers that be decided to downgrade it to a yellow card, freeing him up to play this afternoon.
It is a move welcomed by Graham, who recognises the importance of the fixture. A win would all but hand Hibernian the league title and a return to the top flight but Graham does not expect that to come easily. “Morton are well organised,” he said. “They have had a good season but we have to put our minds to getting the three points, focus on ourselves and go there with a gameplan.”
The striker, who admits that securing promotion with Hibernian would be a career highlight, knows that draws have been detrimental to their hopes of having things wrapped up by now but after three on the bounce, he says the team are gunning for a victory.
Criticised by his manager after a glaring miss cost them the three points at Dunfermline last weekend, Graham says he has not dwelt on the misfortune but knows he has something to prove.
“That’s football,” he added. “The top players miss chances. I have scored more than 100 career goals but I have missed chances as well. You just have to take the good with the bad. Doesn’t get me down, I’m a confident player and I believe the next chance I get I will score.
“To be honest I’ve been getting five or ten minutes here and there. I started last week and probably should have scored but I think I did enough in the game to keep my place. If I do play, hopefully I will get a goal and the three points.”