Sam Nicholson has no problem with Hibernian enjoying their Scottish Cup success to the maximum. But he relishes the chance Hearts now have to defrock their rivals at Tynecastle next month.
A home win in their fifth round clash won’t result in the trophy automatically transferring to Gorgie – not yet at least.
But it would mean gaining some measure of revenge for last season’s painful exit at the same stage against the Easter Road club. It was an extra source of delight for Hibs fans that their historic cup win was achieved by knocking out their rivals on the way.
Nicholson doesn’t blame those supporters for crowing about it. “We have done that as well when we’ve won, to be honest,” he said, with reference no doubt to the 2012 final, when Hearts thrashed Hibs 5-1.
“Winning those games is all about bragging rights. It they want to sit there and brag, fair play – they can do what they want. But these games are all about bragging rights. It means the world to the players. Everyone is looking forward to it.
“It’s never a great thing having Hibs come here and beating us and doing what they did,” he added. “But that’s part of football. It’s not like Hearts have never gone to Easter Road and won games. Football is a funny game, you can never write what happens.”
Nicholson scored in last season’s first Scottish Cup tie at Tynecastle. His goal put Hearts two up in the first half but they could not close out the win, floored by two late goals from the visitors. The away dressing room was turned into a nightclub afterwards, with booming music – including Sunshine on Leith – helping add insult to injury on a dismaying afternoon for the hosts, who lost the replay 1-0.
Again, Nicholson is not concerned by such behaviour. He was concentrating on what then head coach Robbie Neilson had to say as he tore into the players for their carelessness. “I just remember listening to what the manager [Robbie Neilson] was saying,” the 22 year-old said. “He was just letting us know it wasn’t good enough for a team like Hearts – and he was spot on. It [the Hibs celebrations] was not something I was really focusing on.”
A lot has happened at the club in the four months between Nicholson’s last two appearances, including a change in manager. It’s never easy to be sidelined with injury but it’s especially difficult when there is a change in manager during this spell of inactivity. Even though he is such an important member of the team, Nicholson was uneasy about what Neilson’s departure meant for his own future. But he praised new head coach Ian Cathro for the way he put his fears at ease.
“I was really happy when the gaffer came he pulled me aside and said ‘I know you are injured but when you are back, I will give you a chance – I want to have a look at you’. That meant a lot to me. Now I am getting back hopefully he will be impressed with the way I play. I just want to get as many games as I can and like everyone knows, I am just trying to get my knee sorted first.”
Nicholson played for an hour of the 4-2 extra-time win over Raith Rovers on Wednesday night, his first appearance since a 3-1 win at Motherwell in September. Unusually, the substitute was substituted at half-time of extra-time. However, he allayed fears his knee problem had flared up again.
“My knee was fine, it was all the other muscles that were going,” he said. “It’s something I need to work on, the fitness side of things, over the next few weeks.”
Nicholson reported that he and his team-mates are enjoying life under Cathro and his assistant Austin MacPhee, with Wednesday’s win – only the new management team’s second in seven matches – signalling a possible change in fortunes for the Tynecastle side after a period adjusting to the new regime.
“The way he [Cathro] is training is exactly how the boys are wanting to play,” said Nicholson. “You can see how it has started working, and obviously we got the result [v Raith], which was important for all of us.”