Stanton has watched on in disbelief as the team he supported and captained has been drawn deeper and deeper into the mire this season. Having won just once in their last 19 games, Terry Butcher’s morale-sapped side must now muster an aggregate victory from somewhere over two legs against a buoyant Hamilton Accies to retain their top-flight status.
Confident noises continued to emanate from Hibs as they slipped dangerously down the table as the season wore on, but chance after chance to save their skins was passed up until 11th spot was finally confirmed in a desperate last-day shoot-out with Kilmarnock. But Stanton insists the time for talking is long since passed and he has called on captain Liam Craig and his team-mates to produce the urgent action required to prevent the club slipping into a daunting-looking Championship tussle with city rivals Hearts and Rangers.
Stanton, 69, said: “When you consider the way things have gone, they’ve still got two games to put things right. They could easily have been sitting already out of it. But they’ve still got their chance and it’s just up to them to take it. Instead of talking about it, just do it. In situations like this, it can be difficult, but the last thing you do is feel sorry for yourselves. You’re in it and there’s only one group of people can do anything about it, and that’s you, the team.
“The manager can only say so much in these situations. The players have to say to themselves ‘we’ve got to get out of this’ and just give 110 per cent in these games. All the plans that have been drawn up with the new chief executive and so on are designed to move the club on a wee bit, but that all hinges on what happens this week. It’s all come down to that, and if you think of the consequences… I think you try your best not to think of the consequences. You think ‘it will be all right in the end’. I saw players commenting a few weeks back, ‘we’ll be all right’. Well, no, you’ll not.
“You’ve got to go out there and make it happen. You can’t stand about feeling sorry for yourself and thinking ‘oh, here we go again’. You’ll have games where you go a goal down. So what? You just have to get on with it. There’s a lot to play for – I think that’s a bit of an understatement here – and that goes for Hamilton as well. There’s a lot for them and a lot for us. It’s up to you to realise what is at stake, but you try not to think about it too much.
“They’ve got to prove they are better players than the Championship players, but we got put out of the Scottish Cup by Raith Rovers at Easter Road.
“The time for talking’s long past. It’s the time for people to stand up and be counted. Things don’t have to go against you, and they will go against you at times. It’s how you react to it. You can worry and think ‘this is the scenario, here we go again’. It doesn’t have to be that way, the players can change that.”
Hibs have been training on Spartans’ artificial surface at Ainslie Park in a bid to ready themselves for tomorrow night’s crucial first leg against Hamilton Accies, who play on a similar pitch at New Douglas Park. Butcher explained: “We are preparing nicely.”