London Hearts Supporters Club

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John Robertson <-auth None auth-> Douglas McDonald
[D Riordan 22]
14 of 025 Paul Hartley 55 L SPL A

I've learned enough about Capital rivalries to expect the unexpected

ALAN MAYBURY describes his last New Year derby as the strangest experience of his career - and admits he’s preparing for the unexpected again this weekend.

The 4-4 draw fought out between the Edinburgh clubs two years ago has earned its place in Capital football folklore, with Jambos youngster Graham Weir ensuring his own special place in history by netting two injury-time goals to earn his team a point.

It would probably be stretching things a little too far to ask for another eight-goal thriller at Easter Road but the respective form of the two sides makes Sunday’s match a delicious prospect.

By general consent, Hibs are playing the most attractive football in Scotland just now, winning bundles of admirers by the week with the free-flowing goalscoring exploits which have taken them to third in the SPL table.

Hearts have had a fitful season so far but under John Robertson have also made a fresh commitment to passing football.

More pertinently, they hold the upper hand in recent derbies with Hibs failing to register a victory since August 2003.

Still, Maybury - who might pull on a Hearts jersey for the final time if an anticipated January transfer bid from Leicester materialises - reckons it’s too close to call.

He said: "These games are hard to predict at the best of times and with the way things are just now this one is even more difficult to call. We hold the upper hand in the most recent derbies but to be fair there’s never been much between the sides.

"I remember that New Year game a couple of seasons ago and it was the strangest match I’ve ever taken part in.

"We went 2-0 down, pegged it back to 2-2 and then found ourselves 4-2 down again. Somehow we managed to get the two late goals to get a draw but we didn’t really know what to think afterwards.

"We were all sat there in the dressing-room wondering what to make of it and in the end we just decided we’d deal with it later. We still had the winter break then so we went away for a couple of weeks and dealt with it when we came back although I believe Hibs were in training the next day after throwing away two leads.

"They are flying at the moment. They have a lot of good young players and are a very well organised too. They like to pass the ball but the key thing is there’s an end product to it - they create lots of chances and are a free-scoring side as well.

"We are in a transitional period right now, both on and off the pitch. We’ve managed to get results when we felt we needed them against Hibs and Aberdeen but they have both bounced back from those games while we haven’t really been able to build on the victories.

"We’ve been up and down this season but we showed what we can do in the last derby and we’re determined to do the same this weekend."

Maybury admits the departure of head coach Craig Levein in November, coupled with the impending club takeover by Lithuanian banker Vladimir Romanov, has created a climate of uncertainty at Tynecastle.

He maintains that the players’ performances have not directly been affected by the turmoil but admits the upheaval has not helped. And he also conceded the Jambos’ extended involvement in the UEFA Cup has also had a knock-on effect on their league form. He continued: "I don’t think the European run obviously affected us at the time because we seemed to do okay in the games immediately after those matches.

"But maybe the fact we were doing a fair bit of travelling, were playing two games a week and therefore couldn’t train on a regular basis had an impact.

"We’ve also had he change in manager and when you change the style of play it can take time to adjust.

"I think we’re moving in the right direction but there has been a lot of uncertainty around the club in general of late."

Robertson will be without the suspended Patrick Kisnorbo for Sunday while midfielder Michael Stewart is also sidelined with a groin injury which looks likely to keep him out for three weeks. Robertson is relishing the opportunity to manage Hearts in a derby for the first time but is determined to play down talk of his own exploits in the fixture as a player.

The manager earned the moniker ‘the hammer of Hibs’ during his record-breaking stint as a striker in maroon but wants the focus to remain firmly on the current generation of players.

He said: "What I achieved as a player has no relevance now. I can’t go out there and play so there’s no point talking about it.

"I just think this match will be a tremendous occasion. Hibs have the chance to go 12 points clear of us if they win and if we are successful then the gap is down to six with us holding a game in hand.

"That’s a huge incentive for both sides to get the three points and from our point of view we know we can’t afford to go 12 points behind anybody.

"Hibs deserve lots of credit for being where they are because, along with Aberdeen, they have been the best sides outwith the Old Firm this season.

"Hibs are playing a lot of good football and are rightly drawing a lot of plaudits."

Despite Hibs’ impressive form Robertson does not regard them as favourites.

He added: "I can see why people would say that but for me Hearts are never the underdogs going into a derby. That’s just the way I’ve always viewed it.

"I think the big thing about this game is it’s the New Year derby. They don’t come any bigger than this and I’m sure there will be a special atmosphere this Sunday."

Taken from the Sunday Mail

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