The extraordinary Hibs-Hearts hoodoo Robbie Neilson is out to banish - 'you probably know more than me'

Robbie Neilson has not found Easter Road a happy hunting ground.Robbie Neilson has not found Easter Road a happy hunting ground.
Robbie Neilson has not found Easter Road a happy hunting ground.
Robbie Neilson is aiming to begin rectifying a surprising statistic which suggests he is suffering from his own personal Easter Road hoodoo.

Neilson couldn’t be sure with regards the exact details and it does seem extraordinary. But it appears the Hearts manager and former longer-serving Tynecastle defender has never been on the winning side in a competitive fixture at Easter Road.

How much longer that statistic retains its relevance remains to be seen. Hibs host Hearts on Sunday in another eagerly awaited Edinburgh derby and despite Neilson’s own record at the ground, the visitors start as strong favourites in many people’s eyes.

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They are already off the mark after last weekend’s home triumph against Ross County while Hibs also posted a win away at St Johnstone.

There will be Edinburgh debutants on both teams and adding extra spice and intrigue is the fact Lee Johnson, the new Hibs manager, was once team-mates with Neilson at Hearts.

Indeed, the two were on the same side when Hearts beat Hibs 4-1 in January 2006, although that game took place at Tynecastle. Neilson did make an appearance as a substitute in a 1-0 Festival Cup win at Easter Road in August 2003.

His only visit there as Dundee United manager saw the visitors lose a Scottish Cup replay 4-2 shortly before the pandemic. He won against Hibs as a Dundee United player but that was a 3-1 win at Tannadice in December 2011.

Neilson said he hadn’t given too much thought to his Easter Road record over the years.

“I am not sure to be honest with you,” he said. “You probably know more than me.”

As much as he would dearly love to post a victory, Neilson brushed off the significance of winning at Easter Road. He simply wants a win to continue a 100 per cent start to the season.

“You want to win everywhere,” he said. “You want to win at every ground. It’s about winning every game, whether it is home or away. Some venues are tougher than others, but we want to win everywhere we go.”

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Johnson is the fourth permanent Hibs manager Neilson has faced while occupying the dugout in this fixture. He has already come up against Alan Stubbs, Jack Ross and Shaun Maloney. “They are all managers who have managed big games so they understand the magnitude of it,” he said.

“I don’t think it being Lee’s first will have a massive impact on the game. I’ve managed in plenty of them and you can get a feeling of how things are going during the actual game and change it. That helps.

"I know Lee from his time here and Jamie (McAllister, assistant manager) too.

“When you turn up at the game it is business as usual for us. It is about winning the game.

“It doesn’t matter who is in the other dugout.”

Helping Neilson’s quest for an Easter Road win will be Lawrence Shankland, who has already earned an away derby victory for his manager.

The striker scored twice for Dundee United in a 2-0 win over Dundee at Dens Park during Neilson’s time in charge. Neilson admits Shankland is still finding his feet at Hearts.

“He’s a top finisher and I think he is still getting up to speed,” he said. “He did some pre-season in Belgium, he wasn’t quite there when he arrived.

“I think he has shown already that he will do well for us.”