JACK ROSS has urged Hibernian players to embrace their opportunity to ‘go down in history’ after revealing that winning a trophy was top of their pre-season agenda.
The shock Betfred Cup exits of holders Celtic, Rangers and Aberdeen in previous rounds have left the capital club as bookmakers’ favourites ahead of tomorrow’s semi-final clash with St Johnstone.
However, Ross has shrugged off any perceived pressure as they head to Hampden for a second time this term – because going all the way in a major tournament was their target all along.
“One of the clear ambitions we’ve had from day one in pre-season is to win silverware,” said Ross. “We have put expectations on ourselves from that first moment.
“Now we’re in the semi-final of another cup, it wouldn’t matter what teams are involved. That expectancy on us and that ambition for us to win silverware has always been there.
“From when I first arrived at the club, I didn’t want to tread water and just bob about. I wanted to try to bring success to the club – and I don’t think it is unrealistic for Hibs to be seen to be challenging to win cups every single year.
“We might not do that, but we should always go into a season believing that we can.
“It felt realistic to push the players towards that and there has been nothing through the course of the season that has changed my mind in that respect.”
He added: “It is the chance to go down in history and for everyone at the club to say ‘we won silverware’. For a lot of clubs in Scotland, that doesn’t happen as regularly as it does for a couple of others.”
Hibs’ campaign can be considered a success to date, with Ross guiding them into third spot in the Premiership – albeit Aberdeen have two games in hand – and the last four of the Betfred Cup.
However, he knows going two steps further and lifting the trophy, just as they failed to do when they lost to hearts in the Scottish Cup semi-final in October, would elevate perceptions of a passable campaign.
“I speak quite a lot to the players about crossroads,” continued Ross. “There have been a few this season and I think this is another one for us.
“It does transform the perspective of your season because you have achieved that tangible success and people’s wider opinion of it becomes even more positive. We are aware of that – but the main driver is just about this quest to win silverware.”
Of that galling extra-time reverse against Hearts, he added: “The disappointment and the pain we felt after that semi was because we believed we could have gone on to win the cup.
“Now we have an opportunity relatively quickly to try to do that again.”
MARCIANO V MACEY
Ross’ prime selection conundrum will come between the sticks, with Ofir Marciano – fit again following a five-match absence with a calf strain – battling recent signing Matt Macey for the gloves.
It is a massive call either way, with Ross simply stating: “Matt [Macey] has done everything we could have asked from him.
“Coming into a new team mid-season is never easy, particularly when you come straight into a big game at Celtic Park. He handled that really well and kept a clean sheet at the weekend, so he has done everything I could have possibly asked for.”