Hibs boss Paul Heckingbottom vows: ‘I’ll stand my ground’

Hibernian manager Paul Heckingbottom accepts that when he heads through to Hampden next week, he will have to answer for elements of his behaviour during last weekend’s draw with Celtic.

Paul Heckingbottom has been upset by a number of refereeing decisions this season. Picture: SNS.
Paul Heckingbottom has been upset by a number of refereeing decisions this season. Picture: SNS.

But the manager, who was sent to the stand following a first-half flashpoint, does not believe he is the only one who should be answering for his choices.He raged against a free-kick that ultimately led to Celtic’s equaliser and after admonishing the fourth official, who was the one who had highlighted the infringement, he took his frustrations out on a water bottle, accidentally hitting the assistant referee who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“There are things that I know I did wrong and shouldn’t have done, which were pointed out to me and I didn’t even realise had happened at the time,” said the Leith boss. “However, there are other aspects that I will stand my ground on. I will have a discussion about what I think was right and wrong.”

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Having received a report on his alleged misdemeanours, he refutes that he made his gripe personal, stating: “I didn’t suggest that there were any agendas or anything”.

Particularly upset that Celtic’s Olivier Ntcham was not sent off for raising his hands and lashing out at Josh Vela, Heckingbottom said frustrations boiled over because his men were, too often, on the receiving end of poor decisions and he ridiculed the notion that they would balance themselves out over the course of a season.

“I’m not bitter or angry about it. I just want to go through [to the disciplinary hearing at Hampden] on Thursday and get it resolved,” he said.

“Other people will have different interpretations about incidents. But it was the ones that were absolutely black and white that seem to have been going against us all season – blatant offsides, blatant slaps in the face. Time after time, there are no debating those things. They have happened and should be dealt with.

“You can feel aggrieved. It’s not excuses and we just need to be even better – and hope that we get four goals given to us and one of our players gets away with a right hook. Then it will have evened itself out over the season. But what are the chances of that? Very remote.”

Determined to get his point across rather than meekly accept his punishment, he conceded that he should never have kicked the water bottle but does not believe he should be taken to task for an expletive directed towards the fourth official, suggesting it would be hypocritical given what happened between himself and officials in the final derby of last season, when he accused fourth official Gavin Duncan of swearing at him,

“I didn’t think I said anything out of the norm – especially when you’ve had fourth officials swear at you in the past. A lot of it is just part and parcel.

“But I’ve seen what they’ve sent back and I’m happy to go through and deal with it. I’ll just need to make sure there are no water bottles about!”

Heckingbottom’s men will be looking to deal with Aberdeen at Pittodrie today and, while Hibs were buoyed by their display against Celtic last week, Aberdeen are smarting from the humiliation at the hands of Rangers and, on the back of the cup exit against Hearts, they aim to get back on track.

Ryan Porteous, inset, returning to the Hibs side following his League Cup red card, knows that is something the Leith side must be wary of.

“They are a really, really good team and although they are possibly underperforming just now, it will be a tough game, he said.”

He accepts he will have to make the most of lessons learned when it comes to coping with the threat of Dons dangerman Sam Cosgrove.

“It will be a good physical battle but he is a smart player and he has a lot of pace as well. He has more to his game than being a big brute,” Porteous added.”

Despite the red card for his tired lunge to prevent a breakaway goal deep into extra time in the cup tie, he hopes people see more to his game as well, as he becomes more streetwise.

“I have already spoken to the manager and the coaching staff before about the kind of tackles I should be making,” he said. “He basically said it was fine making that tackle if it’s taking a yellow card for the team but I have to find a way to do it so I’m actually getting a yellow card and not a red.

“Darren [McGregor], Dave [Gray] and Paul [Hanlon] have all said I could have just grabbed at him with my hands or maybe tripped him up in a cuter way but I think it looked worse than it actually was. I wasn’t going in to hurt him, I was just trying to stop the counter-attack.”