Billy Brown is back in Gorgie with a point to prove

Billy Brown is in his third spell as part of the Hearts management team after being deemed surplus to requirements as Pat Fenlon's assistant at Hibs. Picture: SNS
Billy Brown is in his third spell as part of the Hearts management team after being deemed surplus to requirements as Pat Fenlon's assistant at Hibs. Picture: SNS
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WHEN Callum Paterson met Dylan McGowan’s cross at the near post to send a header into the back of the net, the Tynecastle crowd erupted.

It was the difference between the teams in the first capital derby of the season and it gave Hearts a triumph that ranks among some of the most enjoyable for Billy Brown in a fixture that has, on the whole, been kind to him.

“That was as satisfying a win I’ve experienced,” says the Hearts assistant manager, who will lock horns again with Hibs on Wednesday in the League Cup quarter-final. “The very fact that Hibs signed very well in the summer and a lot of experienced top-flight players had come in, for us to then beat them at Tynecastle with a relatively new team was just a great result. And, I have to be honest, it gave me a great deal of pleasure.

“It is not just the fact I was at Hibs; it galvanised everyone inside the club at the time. It was a great day. I really thought I was finished with Edinburgh derbies, but that day was really special.”

After two spells at Hearts, the experienced coach had crossed the divide. One month after he and Jim Jefferies were sacked by the Gorgie club, in August 2011, the man who had helped guide Hearts to their 1998 Scottish Cup triumph joined Hibs as Colin Calderwood’s assistant. But Calderwood was replaced by Pat Fenlon and when Brown was declared surplus to requirements at Easter Road last summer he says he had ruled out further involvement in Edinburgh’s major football head to head.

It rendered a return to Tynecastle for a third time, albeit as a volunteer in a time of crisis, something to cherish. It meant the victory over the team he felt had treated him unfairly was something to savour.

“Obviously the way I left Hibs wasn’t right in my eyes,” he says, the apparent U-turn on a verbal promise of an extended contract, which had led to him turning down another job in a lower league, the main source of his rancour. “But that is football. Obviously I wasn’t happy about the way the decision was taken. I don’t know if it was personal – I don’t think it was – but bitterness only lasts a wee while. You get on with your life and that is done now.

“But, for the first time in my life I was put out the game really, and into a situation where at that stage of the season I had to try to get a job, when I could have had a job previously. It wasn’t something that I liked.

“But that is gone now – I have not got any problem with Pat [Fenlon]. I will definitely shake his hand, obviously feelings were a wee bit raw at first but before the [first] derby I met him at a game and that is done now, I don’t have any thoughts about that at all.”

Usually a quarter-final tie delivers its own incentive but on a high-octane night of emotions, when local rivals are pitted against each other, the stakes on Wednedsay at Easter Road are elevated significantly. To get to this stage, Hearts have had to negotiate two tough ties, both of which went to extra time and were ultimately decided by a penalty shoot-out. And while the extra game time tests fitness and stamina, and the additional fixtures place a greater onus on a thinly-stretched squad, the positives include the psychological and financial fillips.

While Hearts have been the side battered by jibes about physicality over the years, it was Hibs who were accused of footballing boorishness by last weekend’s opponents, Celtic. Brown says his young side will be up against “a big, strong experienced, powerful squad of players. Probably the second most powerful squad in Scotland… so it’s another challenge.

“But they are playing in a league where you need to man up really quickly. I know a lot of people criticise Scottish football, but the one thing it is is very competitive. For a bunch of young laddies, relatively new to the league, it is a hard place to learn.

“I know they are young boys but derbies are derbies and the supporters accept nothing less than having a real go and a chance to win it and that’s what we will do but I think the Hibs supporters will see this one as a big test for their club and if they don’t come through it they will not be happy.”