Hibs have acted quickly since Friday night, when a glass bottle was hurled from the East Stand on to the turf near Borna Barisic as the Rangers left-back was receiving treatment during the Ibrox side’s 3-0 victory.
Hibs released a statement last night confirming they had identified four men involved in throwing missiles after reviewing CCTV footage. The material has been passed over to Police Scotland.
The incident follows two similar episodes last season during matches against Celtic and Rangers, when, in the former case, Scott Sinclair was nearly hit by a bottle and James Tavernier was attacked by a fan. Hearts goalkeeper Bobby Zlamal was also punched by a visiting supporter during a derby match at Tynecastle in October last year.
Both Ross, left, and Gray appealed to fans not to drag the good name of the club into the gutter. They acknowledged the incidents involve only a few individuals who are risking besmirching the reputation of thousands of others.
“Enjoy the game for the right reasons – which the vast majority do every single week,” stressed Ross yesterday as he prepared for his first Edinburgh derby as manager. “It’s a fairly simple message and I don’t think it’s a difficult message to put across and for them to take on board. The vast, vast majority do that game after game.
“This is a good football club. I get why there is so much focus on this issue. And I don’t think any club wants that to become their reputation.”
Gray, who is in line to return to the squad for Thursday’s game after nearly four months on the sidelines with a knee ligament injury, endorsed his manager’s words.
“The vast number of our supporters have been fantastic over the years and I fully expect it to be the same on Boxing Day,” he said.
“But there’s obviously that minority of people who want to take matters into their own hands. All we can do as players is say we don’t condone it and we’d like you to be respectful of the players and your fellow supporters around about you.
“It’s unacceptable and the last thing you want is for someone to get seriously hurt.
“The sad thing is the focus goes on to something else, especially on an occasion like that. Friday nights under the lights at Easter Road are usually fantastic occasions. We didn’t get the right result but the crowd were right behind us as they always are and then something like this happens and it puts a dampener on it.”
Ross argued that on such emotional occasions it is too much to expect players – and often those in the dugouts – to be passionless. Friday night’s incident happened soon after a spat developed between members of the Hibs and Rangers coaching staff following Ryan Porteous’ lunge at Barisic. The Hibs defender was red carded by referee Nick Walsh, as was John Potter, the Easter Road assistant manager, and Tom Culshaw, a Rangers coach.
“It’s very very dangerous to link something like a bottle being thrown on the pitch to anything that goes on… I don’t buy into that,” he said.
“I have no problem about the position people in football are in, but we work in a highly, highly emotive job. If you are on the pitch or on the sidelines it is very difficult to be passionless within that. But it should never be an excuse for someone throwing a bottle. That is just being an idiot, full stop.”
Ross does not want anything to deflect from an afternoon when he hopes Hibs will get back on track following two successive defeats by Celtic and Rangers. Unlike Hearts manager Daniel Stendel, who has given his players permission to spend Christmas Day with their families, Ross has opted to train as normal tomorrow. “I don’t think that will make a difference,” he said. “If you were to ask every manager in the Premiership just now about their working week, you’d get six or seven different answers about when players should be off, when they are off, what time they train etc.
“I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer. It comes down to who plays better in matches and that’s it. You always reflect on your own choices as a manager.
“People think your only choices are what team you pick and what subs you make on a match day but there’s a huge amount more that goes into it and one of those is your schedule on a weekly basis.
“I wasn’t aware of it [Hearts being off] and it’s neither here nor there for me. I’ve done it in the past when I’ve given boys Christmas Day off as well – just I hope my [current] players don’t read this!”