BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Hibernian’s last cup-winning captain Rob Jones reckons Alan Stubbs’ side are playing with the same pace and panache as the class of 2007.
The 36-year-old was the lynchpin of the swaggering side nine years ago which boasted the likes of Steven Whittaker, Scott Brown and Steven Fletcher and claimed the League Cup with a thumping 5-1 win over Kilmarnock.
The Easter Road outfit defeated St Johnstone 3-1 in the semi-final at Tynecastle on their way to that final – in a carbon copy of Saturday’s eagerly-awaited clash.
With the similarities stacking up, Jones – who remains an avid Hibs fan – hopes to see lightning strike twice after heaping praise on the impact Stubbs has had in Leith.
He told Capital City Press: “That group of players we had that season just oozed confidence – guys like Scott Brown, [Steven] Whittaker and Fletch [Steven Fletcher].
“An awful lot of those players have gone on to big things, like playing in the English Premier League or at another really high level, so we believed we would go all the way.
“Even when Jason Scotland pulled it back to 1-1 and it went to extra-time, we still believed we would go through. Those are great memories because it led to the final and, as everyone knows, that was some afternoon!
“Hibs will always be close to my heart. It’s great to see the way they are playing good, attractive football with plenty of young talented players.
“When I was at Hibs, the fans always wanted to see fast, exciting football, which we tried to give them. And that is exactly what Alan Stubbs is giving them at the moment.
“Hopefully, come the end of the season, they will have a trophy to show from that.”
The sight of Tynecastle packed to the rafters with Hibs supporters will be an unusual one to the majority of Stubbs’ side, with only Lewis Stevenson remaining from the side which defeated the Perth Saints in 2007.
Jones admits he found that experience utterly “surreal”, having become accustomed to a ferocious welcome in Gorgie from Hearts fans.
He smiled: “It was a strange experience. You get used to visiting Tynecastle as a Hibs player during local derbies and it’s not the nicest atmosphere in the world, as you would expect.
“Then you go to play in a major semi-final and the place is mainly green and white – I remember looking around and thinking it was all a bit surreal.
“But the players have a job to do, so I’m sure they won’t get too caught up in the venue.”
And Jones believes Stubbs has pulled off a master-stroke prior to the semi-final by adding Kevin Thomson to the Hibs ranks for a third spell at Easter Road.
Jones – now under-21s manager at Doncaster Rovers – believes Thomson’s experience and quality will be invaluable during the Hibees’ fraught fight on three fronts during the run-in.
He added: “Kevin is a good footballer. He has bags of experience, knowledge of the game and does things the right way around the club and in training.
“He missed the semi-final and final in 2007 because he obviously decided to move on to Rangers, but he’ll be determined to get to the final this time round.
“He’ll come in and put his stamp on things, I’m sure the younger lads will learn plenty from him and it is a good signing at this stage of the season, in my view.”