Comfortably ahead of their rivals in the Premiership standings after contrasting starts to the season, the Gorgie fans were basking in the superiority they enjoyed just a few months ago but fortunes have flipped and, with Hibs looking to use tomorrow’s final derby of the season to pull six points clear of their rivals with just three league games remaining, McNulty is in mischievous mood.
“When I first came here, we were quite a bit off and I have mates who are Hearts fans who were giving me it tight, telling me that we were miles off them. I still have banter with them but now I’m telling them, ‘remember I told you we would catch you?’
“The gap was massive and a lot of their fans thought that Hearts were challenging for the title and we were struggling and going to be bottom six but it is good to be part of a Hibs team that has put a run together and we feel like the fans are backing the side. When I first arrived, it felt like it was on edge a little bit. But now there is a good feeling around the stadium and the atmosphere is great.”
Nine league games without defeat since Paul Heckingbottom assumed managerial duties, McNulty has played in every one of them, revitalising a season that promised much but threatened to grind to a halt at Reading. It also earned the 26-year-old Scotland call ups and the opportunity to endear himself to his Hibs-supporting mates and tease his pals with loyalties on the other side of the city.
Having mocked the Gorgie support by cupping his ear after victory over Hearts in the recent head to head, saying he was responding to the abuse the home crowd were dishing out in the wake of Hibs’ first derby win in six years at Tynecastle, McNulty, pictured, has been at the wind up again.
Reacting to the news that Hearts have not sold out their ticket allocation for the televised clash, he playfully said he wasn’t sure why that was but added: “I don’t think Hibs would have that problem!
“It’s funny, I texted [my Hearts-supporting mates] to ask if they had bought their tickets because I know they haven’t sold them all. I got a couple of swear words back! But they will be there. There will be a few of them so I’ve told them I will keep an eye out for them! I couldn’t find them at the Tynecastle game but hopefully I don’t miss them at this one!”
McNulty’s involvement last time was restricted to an assist and, while he will settle for the same again if it reaps the same outcome, he admits that the greedy goalmonger in him would like more. Especially as, after seven goals in seven games, he has failed to net in his past four Hibs outings.
“As a striker you are selfish and I’m not going to lie, you always want to score in every game but sometimes an assist is just as good, especially in games like that.
“It has been a bit frustrating in the past couple of weeks, I have had some chances and I have been hard on myself because they were chances that I should be tucking away. But I’m still confident that given a chance, I am going to score on Sunday. If it ends up being an assist to help win the game then I will still be delighted but, if I can get a goal, that’s a bonus.
“A derby goal would definitely be up there. I’m from the city and I know a lot of people from both sides and it is great to have some banter but you do leave yourself open to a bit of abuse if it doesn’t go well. That is part and parcel of football and you have got to take that.
“You don’t want to lose any games but the first game you don’t want to lose is against Hearts and every player and fan will tell you the same.
“I follow a lot of Hearts and Hibs fans on Twitter and before the last game it was all about how bad Hibs’ record was going there and how Hearts have the superior record… all that nonsense. It was a chance for us to go and change all that and to be a part of that team is brilliant.”