How Hibs’ 7-0 defeat could prove to be a lucky omen

Humiliations of the 7-0 variety don’t occur too often at the highest level. Fortunately for Hibs, their Malmo massacre might prove to be the unlikeliest of lucky omens.

Jim Leighton and Kevin McAllister celebrate Hibs' 2-1 win over Hearts on New Year's Day 1996, 48 hours after they had lost 7-0 to Rangers.  Picture: Contributed
Jim Leighton and Kevin McAllister celebrate Hibs' 2-1 win over Hearts on New Year's Day 1996, 48 hours after they had lost 7-0 to Rangers. Picture: Contributed

On 30 December, 1995, a Rangers team, led by Paul Gascoigne and Brian Laudrup, annihilated their Edinburgh visitors 7-0 at Ibrox. Two days later a Hibs team, with just two changes, came from behind to defeat Hearts 2-1 at Easter Road.

Former Hibs defender Steven Tweed played in both matches as a member of an unchanged defence. To him the explanation for the sudden bounce back was simple.

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“A derby is a derby. It didn’t matter what results happened prior to that,” stated Tweed. “The Rangers match was the worst game of my career. It was a horrible day. We were obviously smarting but, once you start, there is only one thing on your mind and that is beating Hearts.

“We had a strong squad of players. We’d just had a blip and a bad score. After all, it was the Rangers nine in a row team.

“It was a bad day. Oleg Salenko scored. I think we must have been just about the only team he scored against.”

Gascoigne was Hibs’ tormentor-in-chief that day, scoring a marvellous solo goal and pulling the strings in midfield. It was also the game in which the maverick Geordie picked up referee Dougie Smith’s dropped yellow card and brandished it at the official. Gazza was duly booked for booking the ref as Smith failed to see the funny side.

Gordon Durie also starred, scoring four times against his former club, with Charlie Miller the other Ranger to find the net.

Over the years the wounds may have healed but, at the time, Hibs manager Alex Miller was furious about the debacle and demanded that either the players perform against Hearts or “they were out”. They couldn’t have envisaged a worse start when Neil Pointon slammed home from the edge of the area to give the visitors an early lead, prompting the cocky away support to sing “we want eight”. Miller revealed after the game that he then turned round to the bench and said “now let’s see if they are men”.

Hibs responded and equalised when Michael O’Neill headed home a Kevin McAllister cross. Rejuvenated and roared on, they got the winner before half-time, Kevin Harper volleying past Gilles Rousset after latching on to a Keith Wright knock down. It was the first derby win at Easter Road to take place on New Year’s Day in 20 years.

Tweed, a lifelong Hibs supporter, believes that the current squad of players has what it takes to respond to their disappointing start to the current campaign and emulate the heroes of 1996.

“The last thing you want to do is lose early points to people,” added Tweed, “particularly after losing at home in a poor performance against Motherwell. There should always be pressure on Hibs to perform and be in the top six every year and, arguably, as a squad goes, it’s one of the stronger ones we’ve had for a while.

“There are a lot of Scottish guys in the team now who know what derbies mean. With all due respect, you had to wonder if teams in the past, with all the loan deals, knew what these matches meant to the fans.

“We have to go and be positive at Tynecastle, not settle for a draw. We should go to win every game against Hearts.”