London Hearts Supporters Club

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John McGlynn (Caretaker) <-auth Barry Anderson auth-> John Underhill
Jankauskas Edgaras [G Buezelin 78] ;[G O'Connor 80]
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Outcome is just too close to call


EVENTS at Tynecastle over the last week have ordained that tomorrow's Edinburgh derby will be one of the most intensified and intriguing for a long time. Well, since the last one anyway.

Two sides in authoritative positions in the SPL, both in a rich vein of form and each with their own reasons for desiring victory aside from the pride-related bragging rights that go with winning such a tribal confrontation. No matter what anyone inside Easter Road says, the minds of the Hibs players and management staff will be infiltrated to some extent by cravings of revenge lingering from their last meeting with Hearts, the 4-0 defeat at Tynecastle in early August.

Manager Tony Mowbray may publicly try to play down the effect that day might have on tomorrow's match, but in the home dressing room it will be an unspoken motivational tool for those who bleed green, like Kevin Thomson and Derek Riordan.

Hearts can concern themselves with the not-so-small matter of attempting to maintain an unbeaten record that becomes more of a rarity amongst British football clubs with each passing week. Tynecastle has been barracked with enough criticism in the last week to provoke even the most mild-mannered as a result of George Burley's impromptu departure.

So with hairs guaranteed to be upright on players' necks as they emerge from the tunnel, the Evening News has courted opinion from respected ex-players of both sides on a game the result of which will be awaited by not only the whole region but the whole country.

First up is a man whose passion for Hibs would rival any evinced by Thomson, Riordan or any other member of the current squad, KEVIN McALLISTER.

"It's two teams in form," said the former winger. "Hibs are on a great run at the moment and Hearts have yet to lose, so it's set up to be the most important Edinburgh derby for a long time.

"George Burley leaving will give the day an added edge I think. If Hibs win they know they will be propelled right into the title race, although Hearts will be conscious that they can perhaps see Hibs off a little in that sense if they can get a victory.

"I was at the 4-0 game at Tynecastle and Hibs didn't play well at all that day and got a bit of a battering in the end. But they have recovered from that and shown tremendous consistency, so I in my opinion they'll do Hearts on Saturday. I'll go for 2-1 to Hibs."

JOHN O'NEIL participated in seven Edinburgh derbies during his three years at Easter Road and is anticipating another barnstormer. He said: "It's amazing what happened at Hearts last week. I certainly never saw it coming but I don't think it will affect Hearts too much in this game. I know many will jump on the bandwagon if Hearts lose and claim it's because George Burley has left, but I don't agree with that and I think it could go either way.

"I've played in enough derbies and when I look back I have plenty of good memories from them, but with this one I find it difficult to predict a winner. I think there will be plenty skill on show because of the players who are involved and in that respect it's a shame the game is not on TV because I know a lot of people is both the east and the west of Scotland who would love to see it.

"Hibs would like to get closer to Hearts but to do that they will have to combat Paul Hartley, who is a good friend of mine, and Rudi Skacel. They are the main threats, but at the same time I think Hibs could have the edge going forward because Derek Riordan and Garry O'Connor are unbelievable and will just shoot on sight.

"When you play against Hibs they can hit you so quick. They don't play many passes across the midfield, instead they are bearing down on your goal a couple of seconds after clearing from their own box. That's how quick they are.

"If I was to stick my neck out I'd go for Hibs purely because they have home advantage."

Former Hearts defender ALAN McLAREN is a man who knows exactly the requirements for winning a championship after leaving Hearts for Rangers in the midst of their run of nine consecutive league titles. He is more than a little irked by the hasty removal of Burley just as his former club were appearing to comfortably handle the pressure of leading the SPL.

"Hibs are on a high so Hearts are going to have to be careful," said McLaren. "It's up to the men in charge at Tynecastle to either appoint a manager or don't bother because this situation is going to come back to haunt them. The uncertainty over the managerial role can't continue. Vladimir Romanov has put a lot of money in but if he wants to pick the side then he should name himself as manager.

"We are all surmising just now because no-one really knows the reasons for George Burley's departure, and unless the board come out and tell us what has gone on then we are left to guess that it involved Romanov wanting too much input. He is entitled to his opinion but if he is going to employ someone to do a job then he must let them do that job.

"What has happened at Tynecastle over the last week will have affected the Hearts players in some way and Easter Road is never an easy place to go anyway. The circumstances will make it all the harder so I'd have to predict a 1-1 draw."

Lastly, the legendary former Tynecastle captain GARY MACKAY gives his prediction for a day on which he expects to see plenty bulging of nets from his seat in the Easter Road stand: "It is shaping up to be a great game with Hearts having been outstanding since the season started. Hibs started a bit slower but they are now firing on all cylinders and I hope I'm not tempting fate but I believe there will be plenty of goals with the firepower we have on show.

"Guys like Riordan and Skacel have been scoring regularly of late so there will be goals. I do think Hearts are better balanced defensively than Hibs. Maybe that's my heart ruling my head but if that's the case then so be it. I just feel at the back Hearts are in better shape so maybe that could have a bearing.

"I have to applaud John McGlynn for the job he is doing in taking over from George Burley. He has prepared the players well against Dunfermline and Kilmarnock and it will be no different tomorrow.

"I'll take Hearts to win by the odd goal in seven."

Taken from the Scotsman

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