HIBS head coach Neil Lennon has revealed he was left cursing pals Rod Stewart and Alan Stubbs after admitting he could have ‘done without’ Sunday’s mouthwatering Scottish Cup clash with Hearts.
Rock legend Stewart and and Lennon’s former Celtic colleague, Stubbs, who led Hibs to their historic cup win over Rangers in May, made the draw for the fifth round last month and paired the Easter Road side with their bitter city rivals.
It is a tie that has captured the imagination of supporters of both clubs as Hearts seek revenge for their defeat at the same stage of the competition last season.
Lennon, a veteran of so many Old Firm games as a player and manager, is relishing the prospect of his first Edinburgh derby but, with the Championship title his main focus, has confessed it is a match he did not want at this stage of the tournament.
He said: “When the draw was made, I was thinking ‘I thought Rod Stewart and Alan Stubbs were my mates’.
“I could have really done without it, because the priority for us is to get promotion.
“But if you’re going to win the cup you’ve got to beat anything that’s put in front of you.
“Hearts are the next obstacle and it just adds that little bit more spice.
“Our supporters and the Hearts fans are really looking forward to it.”
Hibs also travelled to Tynecastle in the last round, after Bonnyrigg Rose opted to switch the fourth round tie to the Gorgie ground, and progressed with a 8-1 thrashing of the juniors.
However, Lennon is fully aware that a sell-out derby across the city will create a unique occasion as Hibs bid to make it a more regular occurrence by winning promotion.
He added: “What am I expecting? A vociferous atmosphere. I think it will be raw, Tynecastle is one of those great traditional stadiums in Scotland that generates a marvellous atmosphere, and I expect the game to be very competitive.
“I think both sets of fans look forward to it. We don’t get the four games a season because obviously we’re in the Championship and Hearts are in the Premiership.
“There was a big tie last year that went to two games and the anticipation has been building for this one.”
Although Lennon maintains that returning the club to the top-flight is Hibs’ priority this season, he has also admitted they are in no mood to relinquish their grip on a trophy they infamously took 114 years to recapture.
Speaking to Sky Sports, he explained: “I think [winning the cup] has given us a huge amount of belief and, certainly from a psychological point of view, it’s lifted the whole club.
“I could feel that, really, from the minute I walked through the doors.
“The players have that gravitas of being the team that broke the 114-year hoodoo. They’re the holders and they want to hold on to it.
“Once you’ve got a taste of something you always want a bit more.”