Billy Brown retrieves his green-tinted glasses to plot Hearts’ downfall

IN TWO different spells as Hearts’ assistant manager, Billy Brown plotted the downfall of Hibernian regularly, meticulously and with considerable success.

On Monday, for the first time, his role will be reversed, and he will view the Edinburgh derby from the other side of the fence.

Brown, Pat Fenlon’s No 2 at Easter Road, grew up as a Hibs supporter, and in that sense has looked at the fixture through green-tinted spectacles before. But in professional terms this will be a novel experience, one he is looking forward to with just as much anticipation as he did when he was Jim Jefferies’ assistant across the city.

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Sacked by Hearts in August, Brown was appointed by Hibs not long after the last derby of the season at Tynecastle, which the home team won 2-0. “I watched the last one on TV, and I was supporting Hibs, of course,” he said. “My feelings at that time were still pretty raw, actually. I had been sacked by Hearts and I wasn’t looking at the game as I should look at it.

“I didn’t take part in the first derby this season, but I’m going to take part in the second one and I am really excited about it. It was slightly strange pulling on the Hibs gear for the first time at Dunfermline, but I am certainly accustomed to it now. To take part in the Edinburgh derby from the other side of the fence is going to be different, but nonetheless enjoyable.”

In their second spell at Tynecastle, Jefferies and Brown did not lose to Hibs. In their first, for five years from 1995, they won seven and drew six of their 18 derbies, with the highlight being 1997, when Hearts won all four matches without conceding a goal.

It is a record of which Brown is understandably proud, and he hopes he can pass on his knowledge of what it takes to win a derby to the current Hibs squad. “I haven’t been beaten in a derby for 11 years now – eight of those years I wasn’t here, right enough,” he said, referring to the lengthy spell he and Jefferies had at Kilmarnock. “But when Jim and I went back to Hearts for the second time we drew one and won the others.

“I hope I can bring that to Hibs now. I was with Hearts for a long time and I was delighted to be associated with them. But I have the privilege of being at an equally big club now, which doesn’t happen to a lot of people, and now my allegiance is on Hibs’ side.

“It’s all about winning. You have to have that desire. You have to have fire in your belly and ice in your head, really. You have to have that desire, but be able to keep your composure as well. Luckily enough I have been on a lot of winning sides and hopefully I can still be even though I am now on the other side of the fence.

“The first thing you have got to do in any game, and particularly in a derby, is win your individual battles and compete for every ball.

“There isn’t any respite in a game like this: you have to be up for it for the 90 minutes and you have to compete in every area of the pitch.

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“Unless you do that, you’ll toil. So we have to make sure that’s what that Hibs team do on Monday.” Hibs competed in every area of the game on New Year’s Day, and despite being underdogs came within four minutes of snatching a draw at Tynecastle before going down to a goal from Kevin Kyle.

The resilience of the Hearts team was evident that day as they stuck to their task before being frustrated for so long, and it has also been on show in recent weeks as they have played some of their best football of the season despite the financial problems which have led to their not being paid.

“This time last year Hibs came to Tynecastle with a game plan and almost pulled it off,” Brown recalled. “But the one thing about Hearts, especially at that time, was they were dangerous all the time, even at the end of games. There’s a great euphoria when you win a derby and there was a great euphoria at Tynecastle that day.

“I think the players there that Jim and I brought to the club have a great desire and a will to win. And I also think they have the ability to put all their problems behind them when they go out on a Saturday.

“I didn’t see their game with Aberdeen the other night, but their last two performances against Dunfermline and Motherwell were outstanding. And I am not too surprised about that. There are boys there with the mentality to come through what’s going on.”

So far, Brown’s best derby memory is of one of those Hearts wins in 1997, and his worst a heavy defeat at Easter Road three years later. “I have a number of fond memories of derby games: one where we were 4-0 up at Easter Road sticks out. But they are all good victories and this would be every bit as special as any of the ones I had at Hearts.

“The 6-2 defeat was my last derby before Jim and I left the club and it was a particularly difficult occasion. What happened there was the Hearts team that had won the cup a couple of years earlier was disintegrating and Hibs were on the ascendancy.

“That was one of the few defeats, but my record in derbies has been good down the years. I’m maybe a good omen.”