The Easter Road head coach, however, is confident that sobering sight will not come to pass as he urged Hibernian supporters not to allow a mindless minority to shame the club.
Hibs have vowed to improve their CCTV coverage after they were unable to identify the person responsible for throwing a bottle at Celtic winger Scott Sinclair during last Saturday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final.
That ugly scene continued an alarming pattern of players, coaches and officials being threatened by missiles, with Neil Lennon, Zdenek Zlamal, Kris Boyd, assistant referee Calum Spence and, most recently, Gary Caldwell all targeted.
Asked whether there could come a point when a referee decides to stop a match due to disturbances, Heckingbottom said: “Of course, there would. We’ve seen games abandoned in other countries because of missiles. It would depend on how severe it was. I’m confident we won’t get to that stage. I’m probably less confident we can stop it entirely, but there has to be an effort from people.
“A couple of people had mentioned issues before I came up here and I was aware of a few things – and it does seem to have escalated.”
Heckingbottom is adamant vigorous self-policing, allied with punishments that act as effective deterrents, are key to halting the trouble. He is also aware of the scrutiny that will be on Easter Road when Rangers visit on Friday night.
“You put people in a football stadium with a couple of beers down their neck and they can act in a strange way,” he added. “Or it might not be to do with any alcohol, but there has to be consequences to behaving like that. When people do get found by their clubs or the police, there needs to be bans.
“It’s a minority, it’s a small few, but they are damaging the reputation of the football club.”