There has been plenty of talk and a bundle of excuses this term but most of it has come from one club, according to Falkirk’s Mark Kerr and he says there is a danger of it coming across as arrogance. But with a tense finale to the regular season on the cards, the midfielder says matters will be decided through actions rather than words.
“It can motivate you, yes, but it always seems to come from one side as far as I can see,” he said. “ don’t hear us saying much. It’s mind games.”
With Rangers already crowned champions and Raith Rovers safely ensconced in fourth place, all that now has to be determined is whether Falkirk or Hibernian finish second and earn the bye into the semi-finals of the Premiership play-offs, while the third-placed finishers hurtle straight into the unrelenting schedule of do-or-die head-to-heads. Level on points, Falkirk have the upperhand thanks to a superior goal difference and if they can defeat Morton, at home, tomorrow, Alan Stubbs’ men will need to win by at least three clear goals against Queen of the South, at Easter Road, the same afternoon.
But, while he believes the players at Falkirk are enjoying the tussle and completely believe in themselves, he does not believe that their Leith rivals even believe in the bold statements emanating from their camp.
“It was Rangers and Hibs at the start of the season,” he added. “They were having a go at each other. But, when Rangers pulled away, the attention turned to us. That’s what I think is funny, and so do the boys. It’s just mind games but it doesn’t affect us.
“If you’d gone back to the start of season, you’d have expected Hibs to finish 20 points ahead of us, no problem. I think that’s why the pressure is on them. We will have pressure on Sunday because we’ve been second for a while now and we are now expected to finish second. But that’s good pressure. We believe we are as good as Hibs. If we felt inferior, they might get in our heads but they don’t. Them saying things doesn’t make any difference to us.
“If we thought they were a lot better then maybe they would catch us but we think we are as good as any team in the league.
“We give teams respect. When we play Morton, we know they are a good side. I think that’s where we have got it right. We don’t go into games thinking we are better than teams but we try to show we are better than them.”
Falkirk feel Hibs have shunned that approach, preferring to count them out prematurely, then try to turn up the heat in the belief they would wilt. Before the last head-to-head, they even questioned whether Falkirk had enough big-game players to stay the course when things got tight.
“Morton’s park was terrible, I heard, last week when they drew there and we were lucky, apparently, that we got a man sent off and a penalty kick against us [when we drew 2-2 at Easter Road]!” says Kerr, casting up examples of times he felt Hibs would have been better keeping their mouths shut. “It doesn’t bother me. We hear it every game. But that’s what happens when you are the team at the top.
“They try to pick away at you and take the focus off what you are doing. But we are mentally strong as a group. It doesn’t affect us.”
But Kerr says it shows that Hibs are a side weighed down by a greater pressure and magnified expectation levels, and that they are feeling the strain.
“It certainly does when, 15 minutes into a game against Hibs at Easter Road, you have boys coming up and apologising, saying they didn’t say what was in the papers.
“That’s when you realise they’ve got a bit of respect for us and they maybe are saying things they don’t really mean. But if you put that in the paper and you don’t mean it then what’s the point of saying it?
“Two boys also said it to me in the tunnel beforehand, giving me respect. That shows they don’t believe what they are saying so I think ‘ let’s have a go here’. The boy maybe didn’t mean it to come out like that in the papers. I could read this interview in the paper and think ‘I’ve not meant to put it like that’. That does sometimes happen but, when it keeps happening and keeps happening, then you start to think maybe there’s a bit of arrogance there.
“This is not me slaughtering Hibs. I’m not slagging anyone. They are a good team but I don’t see the point in all the talk all the time. Hibs are a good side. But, if results don’t go your way all the time, maybe it’s not down to luck.”