Hibernian striker Marc McNulty appreciates the value of one-upmanship on derby day in Edinburgh, and has said he is also motivated by the desire to suppress the fervour among his Hearts-minded friends.
McNulty, who was born in the capital, does not shy away from engaging with rival supporters through social media despite the obvious pitfalls, however, it is the sledging with his close companions that he relishes most.
Understandably, the maroon half of the city are not so noisy in the build up to Sunday’s televised encounter at Easter Road, so much so that Hearts have struggled to sell their full 3,900 allocation for the match.
Hibs’ first victory in nearly six years at Tynecastle on April 6 saw the Leith outfit leap-frog their bitter adversaries, with Paul Heckingbottom’s arrival as head coach in February triggering an unbeaten league run after nine games.
In contrast, Hearts have lost all momentum from the title-winning form they demonstrated until November.
“When I first came here we were quite a bit off and I have mates who are Hearts fans who were giving me it tight, telling me that we were miles off them,” said on loan Reading marksman McNulty.
“And I still have banter with them telling them, ‘remember I told you we would catch you’.
“The gap was massive and a lot of fans thought that Hearts were challenging for the title and we were struggling and going to be bottom six, but it is good to be part of a Hibs team that has put a run together and we feel like the fans are backing the side.”
McNulty has needed no invitation to pounce on the general apathy among Hearts supporters, even though the Gorgie side have a Scottish Cup final against Celtic to look forward to.
He added: “It’s funny, I texted them to ask if they had bought their tickets because I know they haven’t sold them all.
“I don’t know why that is. I don’t think Hibs would have that problem.
“I got a couple of swear words back from them. But they will be there.
“There will be a few of them so I’ve told them I will keep an eye out for them.
“I couldn’t find them at the Tynecastle game but hopefully I don’t miss them at this one.”
McNulty admitted there was interest from Hearts at the start of the January window before deciding to join Hibs at the end of the month.
He added: “It wasn’t concentrate, it was a couple of conversations I had with someone in the Hearts set-up and I told them at the time I was staying in England so it never really progressed from there really.
“That was a the start of the window but everything changed and when it went on I spoke to more people, family, and at the end I thought Hibs was the right club and at the right time in my career – a great chance of getting in the Scotland set-up and luckily that came true.”
Hibs came from behind to win the last encounter courtesy of Daryl Horgan’s brace after the hosts had threatened to rack up an empathic victory during a one-sided start to the game.
Taming burly Hearts forward Uche Ikpeazu helped and assistant head coach Robbie Stockdale has said Hibs will again attempt to avoid playing to their rivals’ strengths.
“Every team that you play against will cause you problems, what we’ve got to do is try to be true to our style of football,” said the former Scotland internationalist.
“If you are talking about matching them up physically, we can’t do that.
“So we’ve got to find a different way to win.
“We’ve managed to do that once. Our job is to do that again.”