Team spirit unrivalled at Hibs as keeper John Rankin throws down gauntlet

JOHN RANKIN revealed today that the Hibs players are just as competitive on their computer games as they are on the pitch – and he reckons that their battle to be the best in whatever they take part in could be the key to success for the Easter Road side this season.

Rankin believes that he and his team-mates have goalkeeper Graham Stack to thank for bringing a new edge into the dressing room, the big Englishman having cured the boredom of being sidelined with a back injury by thinking up a whole range of tasks and challenges to see who comes out on top.

From cross-trainer time tests and head tennis in the dressing room, to shooting down his opponents in "Call of Duty" computer game marathons when they go home after sessions, Stack has got the Hibs players fired up and Rankin believes it can only be a good thing for the club.

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He said: "There have been a few wind-ups lately and there is a lot of competition. Stacky is injured so he is always trying to get involved in it. He's been struggling because he's been desperate to get involved in a bit of the banter as well, so he's been setting challenges for the boys.

"When we are out training, he is in the gym on the cross-trainer setting different times. The other day there, he did his 6k in 15.57mins but then I took two minutes off his times and I have never let him forget it since so I think that he is going to set us a new challenge. He's into head tennis as well and it's weird because there's a real competitive edge to it. If someone has just won, then they will go and look for someone else to play and I think it is so competitive now because of the way the manager has come in and turned things around.

"You don't get a minute's peace, there is always someone wanting to compete with you at something, but I think that can only be good for us."

Stack even loves to have the bragging rights when it comes to Call of Duty, a computer game that allows you to link up with and play against friends online.

And Rankin added: "Stacky has lost a hell of a lot of weight with all of the gym work that he has not been able to do so I think that's why he is always thinking up these wee games.

"He's always on about this Call of Duty game on the Playstation and apparently he is rank one and has got the top kill streak.

"The next day he's always on at the rest of the boys about how hopeless they were the night before because they can play it online against one another.

"Even a computer game like that has a competitive edge to it and I think he's brought that into the club.

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"Anything that you can have a punt on or compete at, then he wants to do it.

"A few of the boys have said that they were feeding the baby or watching the TV at the same time as they were hiding behind a bin in the game they were playing and that's the reason they got killed, but I think a few of them are at it to be honest."

Rankin insists that there is no danger of a let-up in the Hibs squad's determination to succeed at everything they do, not only because of the attitude shown by the likes of Stack – but also because their manager simply won't let them.

Johns Hughes is as much of a livewire as cockney boy Stack and certainly knows how to keep his players on their toes.

Hibs' game against Dundee United today will be a massive test for his charges as defeat could see them slip to fourth in the SPL table. However, they have occupied third spot for much of this season and Rankin, although stressing that his side have achieved nothing yet, is determined that they won't allow a Europa League place to slip away from them now.

He continued: "The way that the manager is now, and the players, there's no way that we are just going to sit back.

"We want to achieve something together. You go into that dressing room and there is a great bunch of boys, there's a buzz on the training ground right now, there is always something happening and you don't know what is coming next or where it is going to come from – you need to watch your back at all times.

"That's the spirit that we are looking to have at the club.

"We're certainly not happy, we are in third place at the moment and that is probably where everyone sees us but, in coming years, we want to challenge the Old Firm. Hopefully we can do so."