Scottish Cup: No fitness issues for James McPake
The 28-year-old central defender has missed his team’s last three games with a back injury and manager Pat Fenlon has expressed the view that his captain is “struggling” to prove his fitness.
But McPake, desperate to atone for 12 months ago when he wore the armband as Hibs were crushed 5-1 by arch-rivals Hearts in the final, says he is confident about his prospects of lining up against Celtic this weekend.
“If the game was tomorrow, I would feel fit enough to start,” said McPake at Hampden yesterday, where he took part in a media event with his Celtic
counterpart Scott Brown.
“I didn’t train on Monday this week and didn’t do much on Tuesday but I trained today and feel fine just now. I’m experienced enough to know if I’m ready or not and I would be the first to put my hand up if not.
“I’m sure it won’t come down to me having to ask myself ‘Should I play in the final or not?’ It will definitely not be as tight as that. The manager and medical staff watching me in training will be able to see it right away if my back is not ready.
“It flared up during the warm-up before the derby at Tynecastle a few weeks ago. I took an injection in it last week and there are no issues with it being a gamble for me to play, or anything like that. I feel as if I am winning the battle at the moment.”
McPake says Hibs have enjoyed the less frenzied build-up to this season’s final, in comparison to the hype which preceded last year’s all-Edinburgh showdown with Hearts, and hopes it can work to their advantage on Sunday.
“It’s been a quiet week and we have just trained normally,” he said. “Our training centre at East Mains is quite a private place, so we have managed to keep out of the way.
“There is a calmness around the place. There hasn’t been the same intensity as there was last year. We went to Dublin to prepare last year and, if we had won the cup, everyone would have said it was a masterstroke by the manager. It just didn’t work out but I don’t think that is his reason for staying at home this time. He just decided we will keep it as normal a week as possible. So far, it’s not been too different to any other week of the season and hopefully that can work out in our favour.”