Hibs captain and manager appeal for calm in derby following crowd trouble

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Hibernian club captain David Gray and manager Jack Ross have both urged supporters to make the Boxing Day derby encounter against Hearts a spectacle for the right reasons, after crowd trouble marred Friday’s defeat to Rangers.

The Leith club are attempting to identify the person responsible for throwing a glass bottle in the direction of Rangers defender Borna Barisic during the 3-0 loss at Easter Road.

Across the city, Tynecastle, renowned as one of the most atmospheric stadia in Scotland, is another venue that has witnessed too many unsavoury scenes in recent years.

Then Hibs manager Neil Lennon was struck by a coin thrown by a Hearts supporter and goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal was punched by a visiting fan as he went to retrieve the ball during an infamous match in October 2018.

This fixture invariably draws out the ferocious nature of the rivalry between the two club as the blood and thunder battle takes place on the pitch.

Hearts’ position as the basement side in the Ladbrokes Premiership is only likely to heighten those tensions in Gorgie on Thursday.

Gray has enough experience of the encounter to appreciate the simmering friction, however, he has implored supporters to behave themselves in front of a nationwide television audience.

“It’s vitally important, and that’s the case with any game, not just because it’s a derby and the passion and atmosphere that’s going to come with that,” said the 31-year-old.

“These occasions are the best games to play in, they’re the games every player wants to play in.

“So regardless of who is playing, it’s important nothing is thrown on the pitch and everyone behaves themselves.

“At the end of the day if they come to the game and behave themselves and get behind their team they’ll have a better time themselves.

“Hopefully that’s what we can all look forward to on Boxing Day.

“The vast number of our supporters have been fantastic over the years and I fully expect it to be the same on Boxing Day.

“But there’s obviously that minority of people who want to take matters into their own hands.

“It’s unacceptable and the last thing you want is for someone to get seriously hurt.

“The sad thing is the focus goes onto something else, especially on an occasion like that.”

Ross echoed the full-back’s sentiments as he prepares to take charge of his first Edinburgh-derby since taking on the reins from Paul Heckingbottom last month.

The former Sunderland manager, who had been a member of Hearts’ coaching staff until 2015, said: “Enjoy the game for the right reasons – which the vast majority do every singe week. 

“It’s a fairly simple message and I don’t think it’s a difficult message to put across and for them to take on board. The vast, vast majority do that game after game.

“This is a good football club. I get why there is so much focus on this issue. And I don’t think any club wants that to become their reputation.”

While the Hearts players will prepare for the derby by enjoying an interrupted Christmas Day with their families after being given time off by new manager Daniel Stendel, the Hibs squad will be put through a light session tomorrow.

Ross, however, insists there is no right or wrong answer.

He added: “I don’t think that will make a difference. If you were to ask every manager in the Premiership just now about their working week, you’d get six or seven different answers about when players should be off, when they are off, what time they train etc. 

“It comes down to who plays better in matches and that’s it. 

“I wasn’t aware of it and it’s neither here nor there for me. 

“I’v’e done it in the past when I’ve given boys it off as well.”

 
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