There have been times when people questioned Hibs’ stomach for the fight, but midfielder Marvin Bartley believes the current players have shown they can roll with the punches as they continue to scrap away in three competitions.
“I saw a bit about that but that’s in the past now. The Hibs that is here now can go toe-to-toe with any team now,” he said. “You look around that dressing room and there are some massive lads. We don’t just play nice football. If someone wants to battle then we’ll do the same.”
The Leith side matched their top-tier rivals Hearts in their Scottish Cup tie at the weekend and Bartley, who has taken up boxing promotion as a sideline, says that proved the Easter Road side are able to punch above their weight.
But having reached the final of the League Cup and earned a second shot at making the quarter-finals of the other knockout tournament, the focus switches back to Championship duty as Hibs try to extend their impressive form, which has thrown up just one defeat in 19 matches in that competition. Sandwiched between the derby games, Bartley maintains there is no chance that Hibs will disrespect Livingston, who are second bottom of the table.
“No game is low-key,” he added. “In professional football every game should be a high. If you start looking at games and think that’s a low and this one’s a high your attitude is wrong and it’s time to pack it in.
“Every time the boys step across the white line we’re buzzing to play football because we’re privileged to be in the job we are. We’ll allow everyone else to get excited about games and what’s coming up, but in the dressing room we are very level headed and concentrated on each challenge as it comes.”
Bartley has extra reason to hope for attention-grabbing performances by colleagues with international aspirations. Having taken up boxing promotion, his first show is on 26 March, in the international break. “I’m kicking the lads up the backside to make sure they keep performing so they get called up for their countries,” he said. “If they don’t, our fixture won’t get postponed and I’ll be in trouble! ”
An experienced head in the dressing room, Bartley laughs off the idea that he is the team’s enforcer in the middle of the park. He loves boxing, and is keen to help others make their way in that sport, but he says he didn’t fancy a pugilistic profession himself.
“I used to do it when I was younger until I got punched in the nose by a big kid and decided to stop,” he recalled. “I decided football is a bit safer but boxing is still a big passion. I’ve set up back in Reading to help the young fighters there who are finding it hard to get out competing.
“I’m in a privileged position where I have some money to put in to give them a chance to showcase their skills. It’s something I can get into because I work part-time hours as footballer. I used to go home and sit playing the X-Box or PlayStation but most days I’m home by 2:30pm so I can really get my teeth into this.
“I think I was doing my dog’s head in because I kept wanting to walk him. He’d look at me as if he was thinking ‘not again’, so I needed something else to keep me busy and give him a bit of a break.”