Last time Hearts and Hibs met in Gorgie was December 2019. Indeed, not since May 2018 has the famous ground witnessed a home win against those from across city. The hype surrounding this one is building steadily in the Capital.
Andrew McKinlay, the Hearts chief executive, is relishing the prospect. His club are defying early expectations having returned to the Premiership to sit joint-top of the table after four fixtures. The only team better off are Hibs thanks to a favourable goal difference. The stage is set for an epic confrontation on Sunday week.
“I'm hugely pleased by this season's start,” said McKinlay. “I kept getting asked the question about 'what's going to happen when you get off to a bad start?' No-one asked me 'what's going to happen when you get off to a good start?’ I kept saying that I didn't expect to get off to a bad start.
“The fixtures came out and we had some big games early on. Our friends across the city are telling us they're top of the league. I look at the four games they've played and I think we've had harder games so far. I'm looking forward to playing them here.”
It will be a unique occasion with both clubs at the league summit and Hearts craving their first home win over Hibs in more than three years. “It would be magnificent. I'm fully expecting it and I know our fans will be expecting it,” stated McKinlay.
“After everything we've achieved so far this season, if we don't do it on that day then it will be doom and gloom. That's the nature of these games. I'm confident, I'm sure the players will be and I'm sure Hibs feel the same. It's fantastic for football in Edinburgh that we will get the spotlight for once as opposed to the other side of the country.”
It is also rather felicitous that Hearts’ first ever match as a fan-owned club is against their greatest rivals. Foundation of Hearts officially received Ann Budge’s majority shareholding on Monday and now proudly own the club on behalf of around 8,000 supporters.
McKinlay will work closely with FoH to ensure Hearts remain close to their fanbase. “I was hugely aware of the whole fan-ownership set-up. I'd been at the SFA when Hearts went into administration and came out again. I was quite close to the arrangement and how it was going to work,” he explained.
“When I was interviewed for this role [last summer], one of the FoH directors was on the interview panel and asked me what my view was on fan ownership. I said I was relaxed about it. If you don't work with the fans, it's not going to be very good for you. They are the football club.
“Me and others will be here for a period of time but the guys in the stand will be here forever. It's their club.”