WANTING your rivals to hang about to provide a derby fix is one thing but the idea of showing them any sympathy on such an occasion is another.
While Hibs defender Jordon Forster feels for his counterparts across the city and would like to see them safely exit administration and beat the drop, he is looking forward to adding to their current misery when the clubs clash this season.
The first derby of the campaign will be Hearts’ first home match and Forster, who impressed when he came in for injured captain James McPake towards the end of last season, knows it could be the perfect chance to torment a weakened Gorgie side.
“We’ll go to Tynecastle on the second day of the season and, of course, we won’t be going with any sympathy,” he says. “Football is a harsh game and when people are down they can get kicked. That’s what happens in football. So we’ll have no sympathy for Hearts when we play – we have to kick them when they’re down and that’s what we’ll be aiming to do. To inflict as much punishment as we can.”
Involved in May’s Scottish Cup defeat by Celtic, the teenager was not even on the bench 12 months earlier when Hearts inflicted the ultimate torture. That hasn’t stopped him being ribbed by opposition supporters, though, underlining just how much the head-to-heads matter.
“Of course I got abuse after the 5-1 cup final, but that’s football for you. But we always try to forget about that and we have the bragging rights as it stands so we just need to make sure that we keep them for the rest of the season.
“We don’t want to let it get to our heads and get too caught up in it. We just want to play the game – and beat Hearts every time we play them.”
Given what is going on at Hearts, he admits that it is a good time to be breaking through at Hibs. Unbeaten in the derbies last term, the Easter Road side are looking to strengthen, while Hearts are undoubtedly weakened.
“Hibs are a stable club, fortunately, and I think it’s the right time to be at the club,” Forster adds. “There are a lot of good players coming through the youths and we’ve signed another couple of really good players over the summer with more to follow I’m sure. We are in Europe and this could be a very good season for us.”
Priorities are different across the capital and, away from the intensity of the derby matches, Forster does have some sympathy for those affected.
“Hibs and Hearts are rivals but as a fellow professional it’s not nice to see what’s going on at the other side of the city,” he says. “I know a lot of the younger players having played against them for three or four years through the youth stages and I know a couple of them quite well.
“I’ve spoken to a few of the Hearts boys. I went to school with Dale Carrick so I’ve been in touch with him. You can be here for your friends off the pitch.
“It’s not nice to see guys losing their jobs and you have to think about the older players with families. But that’s their business and we’ve got our business to look forward to.
“Personally I would prefer Hearts to stay in the league. I know that, playing for Hibs, some people might think that’s a bit strange from me but without Hearts in the league there would be no derby.
“I personally want to play in big games in front of 20,000 people so I wouldn’t want to see them relegated. But they will be starting 15 points down and it’s only up to them to see what they can do to stay up.”
A firm believer that you have to take responsibility for your own fate, Forster was given a new one-year deal in April and told by manager Pat Fenlon to prove himself. Shortly afterwards he earned his chance in the first team and did exactly that, impressing everyone with his game maturity and ability in the centre of the defence.
“I wanted the season to go on for as long as it could because momentum’s a big thing in football and if you are doing well you want to keep playing.
“Now I just want the new season to start so that I can hopefully get back playing and challenge the other players for a starting spot.”