Hibs favourites in semi-final, claims St Johnstone boss

TOMMY Wright envies League Cup semi-final rival Alan Stubbs the spending power that has allowed him to add Anthony Stokes to the Hibs squad.

Tommy Wright says Hibs' dealing in the transfer market prove Saints are the underdogs
Tommy Wright says Hibs' dealing in the transfer market prove Saints are the underdogs

Wright admitted St Johnstone were pipped at the post in trying to lure defender Darren McGregor from Rangers in the summer. But the Perth side’s manager believes the 2014 Scottish Cup win has exorcised the ghosts of past semi-final disappointments and budgets won’t come into play in Saturday’s last-four clash at Tynecastle, although he claims Hibs are favourites.

“This is my third season and a third semi, and obviously the club got there with Owen Coyle and Derek McInnes as well,” Wright said. “But psychologically the Scottish Cup final was a big one because it got us over the hurdle. And we can use that experience to our advantage.

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“It was maybe similar to Hibs and the Scottish Cup. The fact they haven’t won it for so long keeps getting brought up to them and the fact they keep falling at the last or the second-last hurdle so often. But now we’ve overcome it and that’ll help.

“Hibs have a top four or five budget in the context of the Premiership. Look at the players they’ve brought in. We can’t do that. I’d love that luxury but I don’t have it. We were in for Darren at the start of the season but we just couldn’t compete.

“They’re taking around 15,000 to the game, could have sold more, but what comes with that is expectation, which they’re having to live with every week, not just in the cups.

“Obviously we’re in the league above them but there’s pressure for them simply because Hibs are a bigger club. They’re massive. Being the underdogs is in our nature, in our DNA, and it suits us. We’re quite capable of using it to our advantage.”

Liam Craig used to play for Hibs before returning to St Johnstone in the summer. He still socialises with his former Easter Road team-mates, David Gray and Liam Fontaine.

“I was at the cinema the other night with Dave and Liam to see The Revenant,” Craig said. “We thought we’d get the socialising out of the way because it won’t be happening this week. We won’t be speaking to each other now. I am still close with a lot of the Hibs lads and Dave is one of my best mates in the game. Ironically we could be playing directly against each other. So the first aerial challenge will be interesting.

“We played together as kids at Hearts years ago. Dave was the year below me. He went to Man United and I went to Ipswich. We were at a couple of pre-season tournaments. Then we travelled together when we hooked up again at Hibs. My first touch might get a mixed response from Hibs fans. There will be a hard core who will never forgive the players for being relegated but I’d like to think come the end of my second season I’d won a lot of them back with my attitude and the way we were playing.

“I would never say a bad word about the club. I loved my time there. It was a massive honour to be given the captaincy. I would never have turned that down or shied away from it.”