HIBERNIAN new boy Owain Tudur Jones says it would be a disaster for Scottish football if the Edinburgh derby becomes the latest showpiece fixture to bite the dust.
Barring a cup pairing, the 2013-14 campaign will once again be bereft of Old Firm encounters, while Dundee’s relegation has ensured the top flight will be without their local derby against rivals United.
Tudur Jones, 28, has established himself as something of a derby-day specialist, boasting an unbeaten record for Swansea City against Cardiff City and never tasting defeat against Ross County while representing Inverness. Now the Welshman is desperate for Hearts to survive so he can experience the blood and thunder of the Edinburgh derby.
Hearts are fighting for their lives after entering administration and need to raise £750,000 to ensure survival ahead of their scheduled league match against Hibs at Tynecastle on 10 August.
Tudur Jones said: “There will be one or two Hibs fans that would be glad of their apparent demise but, for the league, we really need these derbies. Hibs want to be playing competitive games against a strong Hearts. Those are the games you are desperate to play in and the supporters lap them up.
“The Edinburgh derby is watched across the country and it is an exciting one. I have played in a couple of derby matches in the Highlands and in Wales, when I took part in a Swansea v Cardiff game. They may be a different level but the occasions are just as intense.”
The Bangor-born midfielder says he sympathises with Hearts, after five players and 14 administrative staff were made redundant. While some Hibs fans see big-spending Hearts finally reaping what they sow, Tudur Jones sees fellow professionals suffering.
He added: “It is not the fault of Hearts players they are in this situation. Players are players, and this is a job for us. Those boys now need to go home to their families with a cut wage or no wage at all, and others have lost their job. You have to say: ‘I am glad it’s not me’, but you have sympathy for the boys going through it.”
Tudur Jones is also looking forward to a long-awaited return to European competition, having featured as a talented teen with Bangor Town. He played in clashes against Sartid Smederevo of the former Yugoslavia, Romanians Gloria Bistrita and Latvian minnows Dinaburg FC and admits he was left dazed by the step up on occasion. Now, eight years on from his last appearance in Europe, he is ready to stamp his authority on the Europa League next month against Drogheda United or Malmo.
He continued: “I was involved in the Uefa Cup and Intertoto Cup, both with Bangor, and it was a great experience and a taste of a high level. I was between 17 and 20 during the years we qualified for Europe and it was a real eye-opener. It doesn’t matter whether the teams are well known or not. It was technically so far above the Welsh League and I learned a lot from it. We always played the home legs first and we were always still in the tie for the second leg and thought we had done well. What you don’t realise is teams from Yugoslavia and Romania seem to send their reserve sides to Wales! Then they bring in the big boys for the home leg. I remember getting bamboozled a few times. But you look back now and you have to be glad of the experience and hopefully that will help me on the way now.”
Tudur Jones will feature for Hibs today in their clash at Dumbarton, managed by former Easter Road favourite Ian Murray.
Murray, who made an impressive start to management as he steered Dumbarton away from relegation trouble last season, said: “I played against Hibs when I was with Rangers but this will be the first time I have locked horns with them as a manager. I only came back from holiday on Thursday and it is great to be playing a top-flight side as part of our build-up, but this game is coming very early in terms of our preparation for next season.”
The 32-year-old added: “Hibs were in the Scottish Cup final only five weeks ago, so it is coming early for them as well and whilst the game is primarily about stepping up fitness levels both sides will want it to be competitive.”
New signing from Aberdeen, striker Mitchel Megginson, will feature for the Sons, with defender Andy Dowie and front man Kevin Smith both in line for trialist appearances. Murray, however, will be missing new recruit Scott Linton as well as Steven McDougall, Bryan Prunty, Garry Fleming and Mark Gilhaney, who are on holiday, as well as the injured Owen Ronald.
Entry to the game will cost £10 for adults and £5 for concessions.
Murdoch considering referee move
Goalkeeper Sean Murdoch, who was on the bench for Hibs when they went down to Celtic in the Scottish Cup final last month at Hampden, is considering retiring from playing the game to concentrate on his career as a referee.
The 26-year-old started his career at Dunfermline Athletic and also played for Forfar, Hamilton Accies and Accrington Stanley before joining Hibs. However, the Edinburgh-born ’keeper – who made his debut against Kilmarnock at the end of last season – is now at a crossroads after being promoted to a Category 3 level by the SFA.
Murdoch has been refereeing for five years and was upgraded after working as an assistant referee last season in Junior games, as well as being the man in the middle for Youth Initiative matches.
East Stirling player Michael Bolochoweckyj is another qualified referee, although he has put his match official duties on hold to continue playing, while Euan Donaldson who played for Stenhousemuir and St Johnstone is another player working his way through the ranks after stopping playing seven years ago.
A source close to Murdoch said: “Sean has a big decision to make as the level he has now reached in his refereeing career means that he can no longer have the two footballing options running alongside each other. He was involved in a huge game last season but his contract with Hibs has now ended and he does not know what the future will be.”
“He is at an age that if he stops playing now and concentrates on being a referee he can go far with that career. He really has a lot to consider.”