London Hearts Supporters Club

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Jim Jefferies <-auth Ian Paul auth-> Hugh Dallas
2 of 003 Neil McCann 7L Premier A

Hibs favourites to finish the Festival in real style

Ian Paul

30 Aug 1997

Hibernian v Hearts EVEN THE bookies agree that Hibs are favourites to win the first of this season's Edinburgh derbies, scheduled for Tynecastle but switched to Easter Road today, and that is some confirmation of the transformation in the Hibee form to date.

Considering that in recent years they have had as good a chance of winning this fixture as Donald Findlay has of becoming Labour's man of the year, the fact that they begin at a shade shorter priced odds than their old rivals is evidence of changed times.

None the less, they have to overcome a pretty dreadful track record, having won only one of the last eight confrontations in the Festival city, and Hearts, having had a hesitant opening, would like to think they are about to take off in some style.

Having had to give up home advantage as their stadium reconstruction is not finished, and, having played three away ties in the Coca-Cola Cup, Hearts will have played nine of their first eleven matches away from Tynecastle.

''We would have liked to play this match at home as it is an advantage having your supporters behind you, but it just means we'll have Hibs twice in a row at home later in the season,'' said manager Jim Jefferies.

''You saw against Aberdeen (Hearts won 4-1) the advantage of playing at home, but we just have to get on with it as these things balance out.'' For Hibs goalkeeper Olafur Gottskalksson this will the biggest club game of his career so far.

''It will be a new experience for me, but I have played in derby matches in Iceland,'' he said.

''I played for Reykjavik against Valur in front of around 4,000 fans.

You have to remember that the population of Iceland is only 270,000 - about half the number of Edinburgh - and even the national team will only play to crowds of 7,000-10,000.

''But whether you play in front of 4,000 or 40,000, derby matches have the same passion anywhere in the world, and the supporters make them a great occasion to play in.'' Gottskalksson has not been overworked in his three matches at Easter Road this season, and even Celtic let him off lightly on the opening Sunday.

''I've not had much to do, but the football is very fast in Scotland and you always have to be on your toes,'' he said.

The goalkeeper has settled quickly in Edinburgh and moves into a new house next month with his girlfriend and daughter.

Hibs could be without influential captain John Hughes, who took a leg knock against Kilmarnock and has not trained all week.

Manager Jim Duffy still considers him ''hopeful'' and, given how much such an occasion means to the former Celtic defender, it will be difficult to prevent him from putting on his boots when the time comes.

With Jean-Marc Boco, Tony Rougier and Steve Crawford all playing in their first Edinburgh derby along with Gottskalkson, the capital show will have a distinctly international flavour, in keeping with the last day of the Festival.

''We have four or five players who have not played in this fixture before, but I'm quite happy about that,'' said Duffy, ''but I see it as an advantage rather than a disadvantage as it will freshen it up.'' Hearts have French striker Stephane Adam back after he missed the defeat by Dunfermline due to suspension.

Manager Jefferies failed in an attempt to sign former Celtic defender Tony Mowbray on loan from Ipswich this week and is conscious that there is a lack of experience in his defence, with Dave McPherson still absent through injury.

He says: ''If I had to pick a game I would like after the Dunfermline match, then it would be Hibs.

We had a good record against them last season and, though they are playing well, current form counts for nothing in derbies.'' Frenchmen Boco and Adam, playing on opposite sides, will be renewing a long-standing rivalry.

They have known each other since their early days in the lower leagues of France.

When they made it to the top, with first Lens and Metz respectively, their meetings on, as well as off, the field became more frequent.

''Over the last couple of years I think we are about equal,''said Adam.

''I remember it was always difficult at Lens and we lost twice in the last two years, but Metz were good at home and we won both times, so it is 2-2 at the moment.'' With another three derbies at least to come, there is plenty of time to settle the score.

''Stephane is a very intelligent player who works hard for others,'' said Boco, ''but whatever happens I am sure we will go out and have a meal together afterwards.'' BOOKIE'S VIEW - Hibs 11-8, Hearts 7-4, Draw 11-5.

Taken from the Herald

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