A Hibby born and bred, Kevin Thomson will rightly argue he has no need to prove to anyone his green-and-white credentials.
He sang as loudly as anyone when Sunshine on Leith was played at full volume in the away dressing room after Hibs’ comeback to earn a 2-2 Scottish Cup draw at Tynecastle nine days ago.
But he did leave Easter Road to join Rangers because it offered him a chance to play Champions League football.
In addition, and perhaps more surprisingly, he has now revealed how he once considered signing for Hearts from Hibs when he was exiled from Terry Butcher’s struggling team.
A pragmatist, Thomson described the opportunity as a potential “solution” to his then problem. However, circumstances changed. As expected, he learned he was being released. But so, too, in effect, was Gary Locke, the manager who tried to take him across the great Edinburgh divide. Hearts were on their uppers, stymied in their attempt to survive in the top flight by a 15-point deduction imposed after the club entered administration.
Locke wanted Thomson to spearhead their bid to return to the Premiership. In the end, however, the midfielder was persuaded to make his next move by another Hearts legend, joining Paul Hartley’s Dundee. Locke, meanwhile, left Hearts at the end of his own contract, his replacement Robbie Neilson deciding to look elsewhere for midfield anchors.
It is, though, fascinating to consider what might have been, particularly since the crazily paved football path has now deposited Thomson back at Hibs, for a third spell. Tonight’s replay means he will line up against Hearts for the second time since returning to Easter Road last month, after being released “by mutual consent” from his contract with Dundee.
Victory will mean as much to Thomson as any of his team-mates, or those 16,500 home supporters. So did he really consider wearing maroon when Locke made his approach? It seems the midfielder did in fact put very serious thought into the matter.
“I was born a Hibby, I was brought up a Hibby and I want my kids to be Hibbies,” Thomson said. “Everyone has a choice. I’m open to every solution.
“I didn’t record how long the conversation was but it must have been about 10-15 minutes on the phone,” he recalled. “He [Locke] was desperate for me to go. I was in a situation when I didn’t have a job. I know Gary quite well and what was said between us will stay that way.”
The call came in the run-up to an Edinburgh derby where Thomson actually made a rare start for Butcher’s side, in a 2-1 defeat at Tynecastle in April 2014.
“I’d like to think I shouldn’t be surprised because I’m a not bad player,” he replied, when asked how he felt when Locke told him why he was phoning. “I got man of the match in that derby after waking up to about 100 messages saying I was going to Hearts.
“It didn’t faze me,” he added. “I spoke to Gary. I didn’t hang up the phone. I have respect for everyone and he was the manager of Hearts. I was free to speak to who I wanted to speak to and I respected what he wanted to say.”
Thomson headed to Dens rather than Gorgie, disappointing one half of his family. His wife Calley is a Hearts fan, as is his father-in-law, Jackie. “When we play Hearts he [Jackie] hides under his covers,” said Thomson. “He just wants to see me do well. He’s flying to Dubai so he’ll miss this game.”
Thomson makes no apology for Hibs’ conduct at Tynecastle two Sundays ago. Contrary to what some might believe, it wasn’t his idea to play Sunshine on Leith so loud it made the old Tynecastle main stand shake.
“I had no part in the iPod or the speakers. Younger guys all pick that,” he said. “I was just happy to be involved and happy to be back on the pitch.”
Thomson detects a fearlessness in the current Hibs team which recalls the days when the likes of Scott Brown, Steven Fletcher and Thomson himself emerged on the scene.
“I think there’s a will to win [like then],” he said. “I played in some good teams here and I played in a couple not so good.
“The current squad has got a belief and there’s a lot of young boys who generally don’t get fazed by anything,” he added. “That reminds me of when we were younger and we used to go to Tynecastle and they used to come to Easter Road.
“They had a really experienced team at the time with the likes of Steven Pressley and Paul Hartley when we were first breaking through. But that certainly never fazed us. You cold argue that’s the same just now with your Liam Hendersons, John McGinns and the young boys.
“They certainly won’t be fazed by the big occasion.”