BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
ANDRAZ STRUNA is used to a raucous backing on derby day after revealing how he starred in a Krakow clash with no away fans.
However, he insists being pitched into the lion’s den of Easter Road will not faze him.
The Hearts full-back plied his trade with Ekstraklasa outfit Cracovia in Poland and lapped up the “crazy” rivalry with Wisla Krakow, however measures had to be taken after repeated incidences of hooligans brawling in the streets.
As punishment, Wisla fans were banned from attended the next derby at the Marszalek Pilsudski Stadium, ensuring Struna had nothing but support from the stands.
He knows it will be a different story in Leith on Wednesday night.
The Slovenian internationalist said: “I played in Poland, in the derby between Cracovia and Wisla Krakow and that has a real rivalry between fans. The atmosphere is crazy and there have been times when they away fans have not been allowed to attend.
“That is because of the fighting between supporters. They needed to do something to stop the violence on the streets. But I like to play in games like this when there is so much support and it matters so much.
“When we played away, the fans were allowed in the stadium, but when Wisla came to our stadium their fans were not allowed to come. It was played in front of just the Cracovia supporters. That was very strange – but you need to stop the violence.
“But, home or away, I love the atmosphere in these matches and I want is for us to win because we know what it can give to the fans.”
Hearts are seeking to end Hibs’ six-game unbeaten run in Edinburgh derbies and, in doing so, end their city rivals’ defence of the Scottish Cup.
And Struna fully expects the Jambos to turn in a more stylish performance at Easter Road than the turgid affair on Tynecastle’s much-maligned surface.
He continued: “The first game was hard, a lot of long ball and fighting. Not much football, and the pitch was hard.
“Of course there was a lot of pressure and risk. It is a specific game, being in the cup, and you must be smart in how you play. You cannot take lots of chances to score. You must be clever, especially in a derby.
“Every ball is important and a battle – and I expect this in the second game, but I also hope we can show more of our quality. We are a better team than we showed. Our strong point is playing football and a passing game.”
However, Struna will not underestimate the challenge posed by Neil Lennon’s charges, despite a division separating the sides.
He added: “In these games, especially derbies, every player gives their all. The will to win is at its highest level and it comes down to small differences. You see the underdog winning a lot of times now so you always must give 100 per cent, also against opponents who are weaker than you on paper.”