Butcher won’t tolerate weak mentality at Hibs
The recently appointed Hibs manager makes a quick return to the Highlands this weekend as his second match in charge pits him against Ross County, his derby rivals of recent years, in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup.
The 336-mile round trip to Dingwall has proved fruitless for Hibs so far, losing on all three of their previous visits. They also have a well-documented poor record on the road against Butcher’s former club, Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
“It’s just a journey,” shrugged Butcher, when asked why Hibs, along with several other clubs, have found the trek north so troublesome since the emergence of the Highland rivals as top-flight outfits.
“Mentally, you have to be right. The journey up there is nothing like you have to do in England anyway. I don’t think it is a problem, I think you can make more of it than anything else. I’ve never had a problem with it and I hope my teams never do as well.
“We’ve spoken to them about what is expected and we’re doing to do the same things that we did with Caley Thistle, in terms of preparations. You can make it more of a problem if you want to.
“It used to delight me in the past when teams couldn’t win up there. What has happened in the past is history, it’s about now and what we do now that’s crucial. You speak to the players and they don’t have a problem with it, it’s just that they’ve not won.
“I was at the Ross County-Hibs game last year when County won 3-2 – when it was 2-2, I thought it could go either way, but County won the game.
“It’s a different time now for us, we’ve got a different way of playing, we go about our work a lot more positively in terms of getting the ball forward and working and scrapping hard. Hopefully, a new approach will lead to a new set of results and a new positive aspect of travelling up there.”
The Scottish Cup, of course, comes with an additional burden for Hibs. Having already addressed the 1902 issue earlier in the week, Butcher is understandably keen to target future glories rather than dwell upon his new club’s infamous hoodoo.
“Listen, we haven’t got any players in our dressing room who are 112 years old,” he said. “Yes, there is always talk of a Scottish Cup hoodoo, but that’s history.
“This is now our chance to write history this season and beyond. That’s what we intend to do.”
To that end, Butcher has been further encouraged by what he has seen from his players in training this week as they look to build on the basic foundations laid in last Saturday’s 0-0 draw at St Mirren.
“I have had a great reaction from them and they are now showing me things that I did not know they had,” he said.
“They are improving all the time and showing great confidence in such a short space of time which is good. Some of the things they are doing and trying are very exciting and I have been pleasantly surprised by the
quality. The tackles are flying in, the players are running hard and the training is at a high tempo and it is much the same as when we were with Caley Thistle. The level is at what we want and what we expect, but I will always demand even more of my players.”
Butcher was involved in a Scottish Cup thriller at the same stage of the competition last season when his Inverness side scored a 95th minute goal to secure a 3-3 draw in Dingwall, before winning the replay 1-0.
“I would settle for that again,” he smiled. “It was sensational drama which summed up cup football. Both teams had a go at each other and I think it will be the case again on Saturday.
“You have to give Ross County immense respect. To reach the top six of the SPL last season was a monumental achievement for a club that size. It took a while for them to gel last season and their form really took off in January. I hope that’s the same this year!
“I’ll certainly get a reception from the County fans and I look forward to it. As I say, I have immense respect for the club and I think their chairman Roy MacGregor is disappointed I’ve moved away, because I was probably one of his best ambassadors, talking about his club all the time.
“But I’d be really thrilled to get my first win as Hibs manager in Dingwall. It’s another one of those hoodoos that I haven’t won a game there as a manager. But football’s all about firsts and, hopefully, this will be one of them.”
Defender Michael Nelson returns to the Hibs squad after making his comeback in an under-20 match at Hamilton on Wednesday night, while Butcher has also added 18-year-old striker Jason Cummings to his travelling party after his hat-trick in the same game.