JACK ROSS is adamant his players appreciate the privileged position they are in as Hibernian seek to spread a little Christmas cheer during the most challenging festive period of modern times.
Tentative talks regarding bringing supporters back to stadiums have been firmly placed on the back-burner following the announcement of a nationwide descent into Tier 4 restrictions from Boxing Day.
The First Minister’s declaration has also seen thousands of Scots forced to alter their plans in the coming days, with many facing the prospect of spending the big day away from their families for the first time.
Ross appreciates that the issues facing the public – financial, physical and mental health – are acute and is proud that Hibs have assembled a squad determined to make a small difference to those who roar them on from afar.
“We have spoken regularly about how much it means for us to have supporters inside Easter Road but it seems to be getting pushed further away rather than getting closer,” rued the Easter Road boss. “We just need to try to keep that engagement with our supporters going as much as possible and give them positive escapism from what is going on through good performances and good results.
“We [at Hibs] are all at different stages of our life and have different responsibilities in terms of families, but I think we are a humble enough group to appreciate that we are fortunate enough that we still get to do our job without too much restriction.
“But we don’t have to look too far to see the impact it is having on people, not just their livelihoods but their mental health as well.
“We understand that we are offering people who watch football the chance to take something from that. We are acutely aware of the chance we have to provide, at times, some level of enjoyment to people.”
While Ross is conscious of the day-to-day tests facing the public, it is the onerous sporting examination posed by St Mirren which will occupy his mind at 6 p.m. on Wednesday evening.
The Buddies, managed by Jim Goodwin, Ross’ old skipper when he was in charge at Alloa, has assembled an 11-match unbeaten run and can boast the scalps of Aberdeen and Rangers in recent outings.
And St Mirren’s resurgence following a tough start to the campaign – not least due to Covid-related absences – has not surprised Ross, given his admiration for tonight’s opposing boss.
“Knowing Jim [Goodwin] and the qualities and work ethic he applies to his job, he was always going to give himself every chance of picking up good results,” said Ross. “They have put together a good squad, although they have obviously had challenges in terms of the availability of that squad.
“This period is probably the first time he has had a relatively full compliment of players to choose from and that helps. I’m pleased for him because he is someone who I know well and I’m pleased he has put together this run.”
The clear rapport between the pair has even managed to survive Hibs’ repeated pillaging of the Paisley men, most recently pinching their club captain Kyle Magennis for a six-figure fee as the summer transfer window creaked closed.
“There is always a healthy respect between managers because there is an understanding of the challenges of the job, and a professionalism aspect to it,” he explained. “There is an understanding that everything we do is professional and never personal. We are just trying to make our teams the best they can be.”
ALEX GOGIC EYES SILVERWARE & EUROPEAN FOOTBALL
Meanwhile, Hibs midfielder Alex Gogic has laid out his admirably lofty targets for 2021 after acknowledging that 2020 – while a hellish year for many – has allowed him to fulfil his career dreams.
The 26-year-old followed up his summer switch from Hamilton to Hibs by making his international debut for Cyprus in October, lining up in a 2-1 defeat against the Czech Republic.
And Gogic has no intention of halting his upward trajectory, as he eyes silverware and European football – including reaching the group phase, no less – next year.
“I wouldn’t say it has been a good year, of course, but I have had a good year regarding work,” he said. “Coming to Hibs was one of my goals and getting my first international call-up was another dream I achieved.
“I’m just grateful, really.
“My next target is to win some silverware. We were in the Scottish Cup semi-final, now we are in the Betfred Cup semis. Hopefully, we can take the next step and get to a final and win it.
“And then getting into Europe and doing well when we get there; trying to get though the qualifiers and reach the group stages. It won’t be easy, but it is a target to try and achieve.”