Jack Ross says Hibs have used semi-final delay to improve cup chances

When the latest Edinburgh derby gets under way at Hampden tomorrow evening, Jack Ross believes rivals Hearts will be up against a stronger Hibs team than would have been the case if the coronavirus pandemic had not intervened, and the Scottish Cup had been played to a conclusion last term.

Jack Ross enjoyed victory in his first capital derby as Hibs boss, last December. Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group
Jack Ross enjoyed victory in his first capital derby as Hibs boss, last December. Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group

While last term’s league competitions were curtailed when the country was placed in lockdown earlier this year, it was decided to place the nation’s premier knock-out tournament on ice.

The action will be brought back up to boiling point, though, when the outstanding semi-finals between Hearts and Hibs, and Aberdeen and Celtic play out at Hampden this weekend.

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And Leith boss Ross believes that the passing of time has been kind to his squad, which has been bolstered by key acquisitions and additional time on the training field, making them a tougher proposition than the one that ejected Robbie Neilson’s Dundee United side in the earlier rounds.

Now at Tynecastle, the former Tannadice manager will again pit his wits against Ross, this time in a tie that had originally been scheduled for mid-April. And, Ross is confident that his men are well-placed to repeat their vanquishing act.

“I can’t judge whether the Hearts’ squad is better or as good because I don’t work with them day in, day out but I believe my squad is in a better place,” said the Easter Road boss, as he looked ahead to the Edinburgh derby. “The balance is better, I think we’ve got more players that are in a good place in the way they feel about their own game.”

With the superior record, historically, in the Capital head to heads, the Gorgie side also go into this one bolstered by the memory of being comfortable victors the last time the pair faced up, at Easter Road, at the beginning of March, which is possibly why the bookies have made Hearts slight favourites.

That is despite Hibs operating a league above their city rivals this term, with a longer run of competitive games under their belt, while turning in the kind of displays worthy of greater international recognition for a growing number of squad members. But those outside opinions are irrelevant as far as Ross is concerned.

“We’d have played this game any time – end of last season or now,” said Ross, “but I feel that having worked longer with the group, we are probably in a better place than we would have been towards the end of last season.”

But he does not believe that the delayed start to the Championship season will significantly curtail Hearts.

“I’ve not thought too much about that. I think that professional players are at a level of fitness now where there’s very little between them and, in terms of games, I think Hearts are well up and running.

“Also, the longer you go into a season the more chance you have of injuries coming into play as well. So there’s arguments both ways. I don’t think Saturday’s game will be won and lost on fitness it will be won and lost on who’s better on the day.”

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