BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
CRAIG WIGHTON is already assured cult hero status in the blue half of Dundee as the man who relegated United.
However, the Hearts striker reckons derby day in the City of Discovery will pale in comparison to the Edinburgh version.
Wighton, just 18 at the time, scored the decisive goal as the Dee claimed a historic 2-1 triumph at a raucous Dens Park in May 2016, condemning their fierce foes to life in the Championship.
As a boyhood Dundee fan, that strike remains the highlight of his career to date – and he reckons it will steel him for an even bigger occasion at Tynecastle this evening when Hibs cross the capital.
“That Dundee derby goal was probably the most memorable moment of my career so far,” he recalled. “A few of my friends are Dundee United fans, so it was a bit weird like that.
“It’s never nice to see anyone go down, with folk losing their jobs and stuff, but it was a big moment for me and my family.
“There was a lot riding on that game, with United’s situation, and it was a big-pressure game, but I feel like I am used to these games now and I’m raring to be involved in another.
“It still gets mentioned to me a lot, which is a nice thing and I hope that I can do the same for Hearts on Wednesday.
“Derbies are the games that will give you the headlines if you can get a goal and we are all desperate to do that and make the supporters happy again after the weekend.
“Those games [Dundee derbies] are huge occasions but the Edinburgh derby is so much bigger. It’s a bigger city, with a lot more fans and we are just raring to go.”
Hearts have been crippled by injuries ahead of the visit of the Hibees, with Steven Naismith the latest casualty after he was ruled out for up to two months due to a meniscus tear sustained during Sunday’s Betfred Cup semi-final defeat against Celtic.
Allied with the long-term absence of Uche Ikpeazu, it has left Wighton in line for his first start since joining the Jambos – in the most important fixture on the calendar for many fans.
“We need to step up. We don’t have a choice,” said Wighton defiantly. “It’s a big blow for us because Steven has been brilliant this season and has scored a lot of goals, now it’s up to the other players to chip in and start scoring goals.
“It doesn’t matter who I have replaced in the team, I want to go out there and do the best I can for the team. I don’t think there is added pressure on anyone. It is just about going out there and doing the best you can.”
Christophe Berra and John Souttar are also sidelined after a freak run of fitness woes for Craig Levein to contend with, while there is a doubt over Peter Haring.
Nevertheless, Wighton is adamant Hearts – still top of the Premiership – can prevail against Hibs and bounce back from their Murrayfield misery.
“People might be thinking we might not handle this due to the injuries and stuff, but we have a good squad here and we are confident we can get three points,” continued the Scotland under-21 international.
“The game at the weekend [Celtic] was big but if you ask most fans then they would say the derby is the one they want to win.
“It is a great occasion for everyone and I know what it means to anyone close to this club; the fans especially. We’ll go out looking to put on a performance and fight for everything.”