McGlynn’s mission is to overtake Hibs

IT IS a perennial battle within the Scottish Premier League whose importance is only observed and appreciated by the two clubs and sets of supporters in question.

IT IS a perennial battle within the Scottish Premier League whose importance is only observed and appreciated by the two clubs and sets of supporters in question.

Realistically, Hearts and Hibs do not have the wherewithal of the Old Firm, or more specifically Celtic, to mount a genuine title push.

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So the success of their respective campaigns is measured by other factors: domestic cup success, European qualification and an inherent desire to better each other’s league position.

For large parts of the first half of this season, Hibernian have been in a commanding position to be crowned the best side in Edinburgh.

As recently as 11 November, the Easter Road club proudly sat at the top of the table, ten points clear of their Gorgie counterparts, who were then tenth.

At the end of that month, the gap was nine but as the teams prepare to lock horns on Thursday for the third episode of what is invariably a compelling city drama, Hearts have renewed hope of finishing above the Leith side.

“It works both ways in terms of trying to finish above your city rivals,” said Hearts manager John McGlynn, who is seeking his first win in this fixture following three attempts as either the permanent or caretaker manager of Hearts.

“Both camps and both supporters want that so when you’re going back to your work, you’re saying ‘we have one up on you’ kind of thing.

“That’s the way it should be and that’s the way it has been. We will be trying to use that as motivation come the game on 3 January.”

Following Hearts’ domination in May’s all-Edinburgh Scottish Cup final when they emerged 5-1 winners, this season pointed to a distinctive change in the capital’s footballing landscape.

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The incoming McGlynn was unable to add new recruits to a markedly weakened squad during the summer as the club tried, at last, to bring their expenditure down a sustainable level.

There have also been gravely worrying and distracting issues in Gorgie: the genuine concern over Hearts’ very existence due to a winding-up order, wage delay issues and a transfer embargo.

While maintaining their frugal approach, Hibs – who gained a measure of Scottish Cup revenge when they knocked the holders out of the competition last month – made a more than encouraging start to the league to raise hopes they could better Hearts for only the third time in the eight seasons that their rivals have been propped up by owner Vladimir Romanov’s cheque book.

“I think there was a ten-point gap around about the time we got knocked out of the Scottish Cup so, within a short period of time, we’ve managed to claw that back,” said McGlynn.

“It would be an achievement in the short-term to close that gap and perhaps even go ahead of Hibs who, by all accounts, have had a very good season and been flying for quite some time. They have not been as consistent recently and I’m sure they will be up for the game.”

McGlynn acknowledges there is no greater way to begin the new calendar year than to beat your city rivals and rack up his first win in this fixture.

He was in temporary charge in 2005 for a loss at Easter Road when his current coach, Edgaras Jankauskas, was sent off, while this season’s forays to Leith in the league and cup have ended in a 1-1 draw and a 1-0 loss, respectively.

McGlynn added: “It’s at Tynecastle, full house, great atmosphere, derby game: it’s going to be electric.

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“It will be the first time I will have led the team out in a derby game at Tynecastle. All the other games as caretaker manager or whatever have been at Easter Road so it will be nice to come out with all your friends and fans backing you.

“There’s also the New Year tradition of this game. We put 2012 behind us, a great year for Hearts winning the Scottish Cup and the way that they did it, winning 5-1.

“It was a great year but we look to go forward and at the end of January we have the semi-final of the League Cup [against Inverness], which is another big thing for us if we can win that. We want to start the year on a high and there is no better way to do that than winning the derby game.”