Hibs’ Paul Heckingbottom in no mood to host Celtic title party

Hibernian manager Paul Heckingbottom looks ahead to the Premiership clash with Celtic. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS
Hibernian manager Paul Heckingbottom looks ahead to the Premiership clash with Celtic. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS
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Paul Heckingbottom insists he would “hate” to see Celtic celebrating tomorrow after recalling how he was a reluctant participant in Newcastle United’s party two years ago.

Should Rangers fail to beat Hearts in today’s lunch-time clash at Tynecastle, victory for Celtic at Easter Road would seal an eighth successive Premiership crown and move Neil Lennon’s team one step closer to a third straight treble.

Head coach Heckingbottom’s only defeat in an impressive start to his stewardship came against Celtic in last month’s Scottish Cup tie, with Hibernian having won six games out of eight in the league – including a memorable Edinburgh derby success on their last 
outing.

Third place and an automatic Europa League place remains a realistic target for Hibs. However, Heckingbottom also admits he wants to avoid witnessing another team enjoying themselves at his expense, just as happened when Newcastle thrashed Barnsley 3-0 on the final day of the campaign to clinch the English Championship title.

“No-one would like it but me personally I would hate it,” said the ex-Tykes manager. “I would be jealous. That’s what you play for, to get in the position they are in.

“We might be able to chase something down ourselves, that’s our goal.

“We had it at Barnsley in the last game of the season at Newcastle. You are a bit part.

“They have earned the right to be in that position, but we are chasing our own things and, from our own position, we want to do our job for ourselves. It’s strange. We’d had a good season but we weren’t playing for anything by that point against Newcastle so you almost feel as if you are making up the numbers.

“It was 3-0, they went two up early on. I’d have walked on myself and given them the trophy just to get off the pitch.”

Hibs are now only six points adrift of third place having reduced that gap from 14 when Heckingbottom first took over and midfielder Stevie Mallan insists there is no reason why they cannot defy the odds to achieve Europa League 
football.

He said: “Hopefully we can start on a high. We don’t want to lose the game as we want to be in that top three, four. It is going to be tough, a lot of people wrote us off getting the top six and maybe we can shut a few more people up.

“We’re still six points away with five to play and if we do make that top four it’s going to be a momentous task from the full squad.

“Playing against the best teams make it harder but the belief is there with the run we’ve been on just now.”

Hibs winger Martin Boyle, meanwhile, yesterday returned to light training after being sidelined since the end of last year with a knee injury but Heckingbottom insisted that the Australia internationalist will not return this season.