To football fans the world over there is one game that ranks above all others – the local derby – and the first Edinburgh contest of the season at Tynecastle will be relished by both sets of fans.
Robbie Neilson came in for fierce criticism for his derby record during his first spell as Hearts head coach and his two wins, three draws and two defeats, was arguably the reason some fans wanted him sacked.
The most notorious match saw Hearts throw away a 2-0 home advantage in the final 10 minutes of a Scottish Cup fifth round tie against Hibs in 2016. Hearts lost the replay 1-0 at Easter Road and then had to watch their city rivals go on to lift the trophy for the first time since 1902.
Many people blame Neilson for Hibs escaping their Scottish Cup hoodoo and few shed a tear when he left Tynecastle nine months later, however, while Neilson’s football wasn’t attractive, it was effective, and Hearts struggled after his departure.
Since his return to Gorgie in June 2020, Hearts have won promotion back to the Premiership and have made some shrewd signings in the transfer window. The return of Craig Gordon (now club captain) was a massive coup for Hearts. Now aged 38, Gordon remains one of the best goalkeepers in the country and if he performs as well as he has in previous derbies, there’s every chance Hearts will come out on top.
Liam Boyce spearheads the Hearts attack and after picking up the Championship’s Golden Boot award last season with a total of 14 goals, he is a man the Hibs defence will need to be very wary of.
Two new additions in the Hearts midfield to watch out for are Josh Ginnelly, signed from Preston North End after an impressive season on loan, and former Everton starlet Beni Baningime, who penned a three year deal and impressed on his debut against Celtic, picking up Man of the Match in the 2-1 victory.
Ginnelly has the ability to provide moments of magic out of nothing and Hearts will have a much stronger chance of winning if he is on his game, while Baningime’s ball winning skills are crucial in any game, but particularly in an Edinburgh derby where the action tends to be frantic in the middle of the park.
Despite Hearts and Hibs competing in different leagues last season, the pair met in the delayed Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden in October, and it was Hearts who came out 2-1 on top after extra time, with Boyce netting the winner from the penalty spot.
Hibs’ record at Tynecastle is embarrassing to say the least – aside from wins on their last two visits, prior to that Hibs had won only four of their previous 34 trips to Tynecastle.
Many Hearts fans still harbour doubts on Robbie Neilson’s ability to take the club forward. He knows he will once again be judged on his derby record and a Hearts defeat on 12 September could be the beginning of the end for the Hearts boss.