BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
PETER Houston insists promotion with Falkirk would rank right up alongside his Scottish Cup triumph with Dundee United in 2010.
The Bairns face the first of a possible four matches in that quest this evening when they take on Hibs at Easter Road in the Premiership play-off semi-final first-leg.
At stake is a two-legged shot at promotion against Kilmarnock, and Houston – who led his team to second above Hibs in the Championship earlier this month – admits success would rate as highly as his Hampden conquest against Ross County with United six years ago.
“I would never diminish what 2010 did for me,” he commented. “That is done over five games and we won the Scottish Cup.
“This will have been done over 40 games and it would be a huge achievement, but it would rank hand in hand with the 2010 Scottish cup win with Dundee United. I could never choose between the two.
“It would be a massive achievement for Falkirk because of the resources we have got, especially in a season where Rangers and Hibs were in this league.
“I know what resources Hibs have and it is double ours, and it would be kudos to us if we did go up – but only if we go up.”
Matches between Hibs and Falkirk have been characterised by a significant amount of pre-match ‘sledging’ and on-field hostility.
The apparent ill-feeling dates back at least to last season’s Scottish Cup semi-final when, after Falkirk’s ‘smash-and-grab’ 1-0 victory, head coach Alan Stubbs claimed Hibs had been the better team and should have progressed to the final.
Houston’s response was his side had benefited from a weakness in the opposition ranks in dealing with cross balls and Stubbs simply had to ‘deal with it’.
That bad blood has intensified this season with a controversial penalty that earned Hibs the only victory in four matches between the team, a managerial ‘war of words’ and Falkirk’s fury at Fraser Fyvie questioning prior to last month’s 2-2 draw whether they would prove they had ‘big-game players’.
Now 57, Houston is too long in the tooth to allow the rancour to dominate this latest clash, but is also not about to issue an innocent plea.
“I don’t think there has been needle between the teams – it’s been between me and Alan!” he added with a smile. “I think it’s just noising each other up and Alan will do the best he can.
“I remember hearing about his press conference two weeks ago when he said Falkirk had to beat Morton – that was him getting it out there. I can take that. There is nothing malicious in it.
“I don’t know Alan particularly well but we have had a cup of tea together and we have had pleasant banter.
“What you try to do as a manager is take the pressure off your team. It’s about winding other people up.
“It will come down to two teams who have had a good season in the league and want to have an opportunity of going into a league where I think Falkirk deserve to be.”