BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Hibernian defender Niklas Gunnarsson already counts one victory at Tynecastle among the most memorable moments of his career – now he wants to experience more Gorgie glory against Hearts.
The 24-year-old lapped up the electric atmosphere last Saturday as the Hibees claimed a 2-1 win over Premiership St Johnstone to reach to the League Cup final.
With Hibs fans making up the vast majority of the 16,971 crowd at the home of their city rivals, goals from Jason Cummings and John McGinn secured the triumph.
And Gunnarsson, an unused substitute against the Saints, will hope to play a pivotal part in proceedings on Sunday when Hibs return to Tynecastle – this time, very much in the minority – aiming to dump Hearts out of the Scottish Cup.
He said: “It was an absolutely unbelievable atmosphere at Tynecastle last week, the fans were brilliant and it was an amazing experience for me.
“That is one of the very good moments in my football career so far.
“It’s sad that there won’t be as many Hibs fans there this weekend, but I believe our supporters that come will bring a lot of atmosphere to Tynecastle again and it will be something to enjoy.
“It’s a very compact stadium and I’m sure we will hear a lot from the Hearts fans when we are warming up!”
If Hibs are to claim a memorable derby victory, Gunnarsson acknowledges that the quality of Anthony Stokes – the match-winner in Hibs’ 1-0 win over Morton in midweek – could play a major part.
The Ireland international has already scored two goals since returning to Easter Road on loan from Celtic, despite his time on the pitch amounting to just 97 minutes.
And Gunnarsson reckons you can see his top-flight pedigree a mile away.
He added: “He’s a goalscorer, he is dangerous all the time, especially when the ball is inside the 18-yard box.
“He is a good player and you can see that he has played Premiership football and I think Hibs will have a lot of joy from Stokesy.”
While Gunnarson, on loan for the rest of the season from Tippelagaen outfit Valerenga, cut a composed figure in Greenock, he is adamant there is more to come – now he has learned his teammates names.
He told Hibs TV: “The pace here in Scotland is a lot more up and down and it is high tempo all the time. That is very different from the game in Norway and Sweden.
“But I have had four weeks with the lads now and I know them better. I know the names of all the players! I would say that, on my debut against Raith, I didn’t know the names of 50 per cent of the players.
“I thought I was solid defensively against Morton, but I still have improvement to come going forward. With more training and more games I think that will come.
“I have seen many good players come to Scotland and, after doing well in their own league, they do not perform in Scotland, because the tempo is so high. You need to adapt, but I think it will suit me.”