'You see men frothing at mouth, abusing you': Joe Newell lifts lid on what it's like to be a Hibs player on Hearts soil
“You feel like you’re on enemy territory,” the midfielder explains. “And you try to thrive on that. When you get there, you get a few shouts. And you get them when you’re playing, because Tynecastle is very enclosed. For the away side in a derby, it’s quite funny, I think. It’s quite good, isn’t it? You see men frothing at the mouth, abusing you. You could walk past them in the street and they wouldn’t say a thing. But it’s a derby and that’s what everyone loves about it.”
A relative veteran of this fixture given this is his fifth year at Hibs, derby bragging rights have been hard to come by for Newell. He has experience of one victory over Hearts on their patch, way back in December 2019 when he was second-half substitute in a 2-0 win when Martin Boyle scored twice – “I probably thought it was going to happen every time, that it would be easy” – but the reality is that Hearts have been top dogs for much of the Englishman’s time in Edinburgh. Newell wants that to change.
“It would mean a lot to win there,” said the 30-year-old. “You get the bragging rights, initially, even if it’s only three points on offer. It’s no big deal in terms of our goals for the season but we want to win – and we expect to win. Our focus is on three points and getting the bragging rights we get there. Now we’re under a new regime, new management, we want to look at being dominant, definitely."
Newell has captained Hibs in three of their past four matches, standing in for Paul Hanlon. There was a time when the 30-year-old looked to be a bit-part player at the club as he struggled to settle, so it is no surprise to hear of his pride at leading Hibs out at Tynecastle should the armband be bestowed upon him. “It would mean a lot,” he said. “It's not something I take lightly. Whenever I've had it this season it's a huge honour for me. I'm very lucky to do this as a job and I know that and I tell myself that all the time, how lucky I am and how much I enjoy it so when you get added little perks like that it's brilliant. If I do get the armband at Tynecastle then it will be something I'll be very proud of."
There is an argument that Newell, who is due to get married in the near future, is in the best form of his career. He has certainly been one of Hibs’ best players, comfortable in his surroundings and in with the bricks at Hibs. He looks bashful when asked if he feels in such good condition. "I'd say probably over the last season or two, I've been consistent. I'm injury-free, which always helps. I look after myself a lot better than I did when I was a kid. I'm just enjoying my life; I'm enjoying my football. I think my balance is good in life in general, and I'm playing well. If you're asking me that question, I suppose I'm doing alright, yeah.”
Lead Hibs to victory over Hearts at Tynecastle and he’ll be doing more than just alright.