ALL level with Manchester City, and Wigan were ready to make a substitution. Fraser Fyvie was stripped and about to come on in the FA Cup final at Wembley. But in the knockout competitions, you need some luck.
“I was actually coming on and then Ben Watson scored and Roberto Martinez told me to sit back down!” the midfielder says with a small smile and almost imperceptible shake of the head. “I had been shown the corner routines, was stripped – shirt on and ready to go – when the manager said ‘sit back down’. It was quite funny, I suppose.”
At the time he wasn’t laughing. In the end he got a medal, that Watson effort in the dying minutes enough to give the underdogs their day, but he feels he still missed out.
“There was less than ten minutes to go. I don’t know whether I was going to make the difference – I was going to fill a jersey, at least, the boys were a bit leggy by that point – but then Ben scored and the rest is history.
“When you don’t come on in the game it’s not the same. It was a great day and a wonderful occasion, but if I could actually be on the field and make a difference in a final then that would be special.”
That will be one of the factors driving him as he and his Hibs team-mates take on St Johnstone in the semi-final of the League Cup on Saturday. Fyvie played in four out of the seven ties in Wigan’s winning run that season, “and I was in the squad for the final, so I felt involved and, as a 19-year-old at a Premier League team, it was a privilege to experience it. But, back in Scotland now, I want to win things here. To experience something like that at Hampden would be great.”
A trip to the national stadium is dependent on the way the Leith team cope with Tommy Wright’s men. While the other semi-final is being staged at Hampden, the battle of the self-proclaimed underdogs will be contested at Tynecastle. Both Fyvie and his manager Alan Stubbs were amused by the claim from the St Johnstone boss that his top-tier side would not be favourites against a team battling for promotion a league below.
“St Johnstone’s record, over the years Tommy has been there, has been as good as anyone’s considering his resources,” said the Hibs gaffer. “People say they have always over-achieved and excelled and that’s a sign of a good manager. If someone wants to say we are favourites then that’s fine, but I’ll be saying the opposite.”
It was Stubbs who was linked with treble aspirations after admitting that given their sustained presence in both major cup competitions and their close proximity to Championship-leading Rangers, the achievement was still a possibility.
A possibility is something very different from a probability, according to Fyvie. He and his colleagues have a huge amount of belief this term and he says they won’t give up on any award without a fight, but he says that people have to be realistic about the magnitude of the challenges ahead.
“I think we’ll take that with a pinch of salt. I’d say we’re the underdogs. St Johnstone can say that, but they are doing well in the top flight and are difficult to play against. I saw them against Aberdeen when they won 5-1. I was up seeing my family and went to the game and they were fantastic. They are big, rigid, but know exactly how they want to play, and Michael O’Halloran has done great for them. They put Rangers out [of the League Cup] so they are very good. It will be difficult but we’ll study them and try to get the right result.”
Still only 22, Fyvie is a key player in Hibs’ aspirations this term. He has bounced back from the negative headlines attracted by some overacting after Andy Halliday kicked out at him at Ibrox. Having served his ban for feigning a head knock, he says the incident is behind him. He has nothing more to say on the matter. His talking will be done on the pitch and with Hibs’ strength in depth, including the addition of Anthony Stokes, he hopes there will be something worth shouting about.
He knows from bitter experience the difference a player with an eye for goal can make in cup ties. “I think a lot of pressure has been left on Jason Cummings this season and he has scored a lot of goals for us, but Stokes coming in will maybe help to take a little bit of that pressure off him.
“I played in a semi-final for Aberdeen – against Hibs. I remember I had just come back from injury, it was my first game back but it was a massive disappointment to get beat. Leigh Griffiths made the difference that day. He scored goals for fun for Hibs back then and you just need to look at what he has gone on to achieve. Hopefully I’m due a bit of luck, you need that on these occasions, something to go your way – and obviously you need to turn up on the day.”