Hibernian go into this evening’s Scottish Cup quarter-final against Celtic hoping they can call the shots and if they prove successful, Stephane Omeonga has already called the tune.
The Hibs midfielder is a keen piano player and a victory tonight would see him follow through on a promise to learn Sunshine on Leith, admitting that previous stadium singalongs of the club’s adopted anthem have had him spellbound.
He isn’t the only one, with new manager Paul Heckingbottom revealing that the Hampden rendition of the song from Hibs’ famous 2016 Scottish Cup final triumph featured in the first video he was sent when he was unveiled as Neil Lennon’s replacement.
“Someone sent me the footage of the fans signing straight afterwards as soon as I signed,” said Heckingbottom. “I had already seen the celebrations, and the day after on the bus and things like that.
“But that was special. Did they play the music over the Tannoy first? They must have done because I was thinking they can’t be that good, surely! Everyone joined in and it was fantastic. It’s a special club anthem and it’s little stories like that help you understand things when you come here, and when I signed it was the first thing they sent to me. Now we’re two games away [from another final] so what better motivation than that?”
Sitting inches from the 146-year-old trophy, recent signing Omeonga studied it intently.
“This is the closest I have ever come to a professional trophy,” he explained. “I am buzzing, it is quite emotional! We are still far away from lifting it for real but if that was possible it would be amazing.”
While he has yet to experience lifting silverware, there are team-mates who wrote their names into Hibs’ history three years ago. The fact they have that know-how can help inspire the current squad, according to the Belgian midfielder who will face up to the man who signed him for the capital club just over a month ago.
“I see Hibs’ name on the trophy and it is good to know there are still people here who won the trophy. It goes to show it can be done, it is possible,” Omeonga added. “They have not spoken a lot about winning the cup but I have watched some videos on my own of the fans singing after the 2016 final – it was just wonderful. It is for these types of games that I came to Hibs.
“I am just looking forward to playing if I get the chance. If we win on Saturday then I will definitely have to learn the words to Sunshine on Leith. It’s a great song. The players have asked me to learn it on the piano and I will do that.”
The piano playing is a fairly recent hobby, with the youngster keen to make the most of the hours away from the training ground.
“I do not just want to play the PlayStation or watch series on TV – I can learn something at least. The other boys all have lives, most of them are from here and have family and kids. I am on my own – I’m just here to play football.
“I have been playing piano for one year. I still don’t know how to read sheet music, so it might take me some time to learn the song, but I will do it.”
Happy to tinkle the ivories, he is not willing to blow his own trumpet, and having posted a performance on instagram he says he will leave it to others to judge how good he is. Until now he has favoured modern classical music, with Ludovico Einaudi and Max Richter his favourites, but he is now looking forward to extending his repertoire to include some Proclaimers, especially if the team can progress in the cup and the song becomes the soundtrack to success.
But first the Leith side need to get the better of former boss Lennon. While the whirlwind changes at Celtic surprised some, Omeonga says that neither the madness of the past week nor the managerial turnaround has fazed him, having gone through four bosses in quick succession while in Italy.
“I’m used to it. I’m young but I learn how to manage things. It was not that bad. It’s just football and it will be cool to see him [Lennon] again.”
Whether others feel the same he wouldn’t say, though. “What is said in the dressing room stays in the dressing room,” he explained with a grin. “But the guys want to lift the cup again and we are focused on that.”