“The players are aware that they’re a good side” – Ross ahead of Ibrox trip

Hibernian Head Coach Jack Ross met the media ahead of Sunday’s top of the table clash at Ibrox. Jack Donnelly reports.

(Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

In what is a massive game for both sides, unbeaten Hibernian travel west to take on champions Rangers at Ibrox, with a win for either team ensuring that they go into the international break at the top of the cinch Premiership.

After a hoodoo-breaking victory over St. Johnstone last weekend, Hibs seem to be exercising some of their demons from seasons gone by, with a positive result against Rangers being the next big step in their progression.

Hibs travelled to Ibrox on two occasions last season, and while they remained competitive in both matches, gained zero points from the six available. Head Coach Jack Ross, while fairly pleased with last season’s performances, knows that his side will need to do more to ensure a positive result.

“I was pleased with our performances against Rangers on the main last year, but I would acknowledge also that we didn’t win any of those matches at Ibrox, so we need to put that right.

“For us, we need to, at the bare minimum, get close to that performance level because I think in both of those games, we were well in the match, but we then need to look to better them in order to go and win the game.

“It sounds very simplistic and very obvious but in those games at Ibrox, they were both won by a single goal. We had opportunities that we feel we maybe could’ve capitalised on more and we didn’t keep a clean in sheet in either of the two games.

“It sounds obvious to say, but when you keep a clean sheet, it gives you a brilliant platform to win a game and then you rely on your creativity and ruthlessness, so we need to get both aspects of that right, as we have done for the bulk of the season, but we have to go and do that against the highest-quality opposition in terms of the league.”

A chance to go top of the league over a team like Rangers would be an attractive day out for any Hibs fan, but as with every other Premiership match thus far, Rangers have not allocated any tickets for away supporters. Ross spoke on what away fans bring to football in Scotland and how the presence of Hibs fans inside Ibrox would have added to the match itself.

“I think it would’ve added to the whole occasion. Undoubtedly, the presence of a big Hibs support in Ibrox on Sunday would’ve heightened the atmosphere, there’s no doubt about that.

“There is a rivalry between the clubs and that’s intensified when you’re both in the position we’re in in the table at the moment and the motivation for both clubs, obviously, would be to finish that weekend at the top of the table.

“One of the parts of Scottish football that’s so attractive is the geography of the country means that people can travel to away fixtures relatively easily compared to other countries and subsequently, clubs have always enjoyed having travelling supporters.

“People have looked at it as a part of the football fabric in Scotland. Away days have always been a big deal for people, and I would hate for us ever to come away from that, as it would spoil a part of our game that’s so good.”

The lack of away supporters at both Rangers and Celtic home matches have prompted other clubs – namely Hearts and Motherwell – to request clarity from the SPFL as to why both Glasgow sides are denying travelling fans access. Elsewhere, Premiership clubs have commissioned an independent review in order to boost revenue for the Scottish top flight. Given that Ross’ Hibs were one of the five clubs involved, he had his thoughts on the review itself.

“I think the review is understandable when you look at wider aspects of the game but from an on-pitch perspective, we’re all aware how difficult it is to challenge the two biggest clubs in the country because of the difference of resources, and although there’s a difference in resources across all leagues, there is a vast, vast gulf.

“I think the review is aimed at trying to make that gulf smaller and looking at how we increase revenue across all aspects of the game because that feeds back into what you can do from a playing budget perspective.

“What it does highlight is that there’s good clubs in Scotland, really good clubs, that have got potential to a degree and should try and be consistently competitive at the right end of the table and certainly in this early season it’s refreshing to see that, and long may it continue.”

That level of increased competition has been evident for Hibs, with the Leith side dropping points to the likes of Hearts, Dundee and St. Mirren in recent weeks. Ross openly admitted that performance levels have wavered in certain games, but the heightened competitiveness brings about a welcome focus ahead of every match.

“I don’t think there’s much margin for error, which is a good thing. I think it encourages standards to be high, knowing that if we dip below them [other teams] in this league, it is difficult.

“I think the players are aware that they’re a good side, but you just have to be constantly reminding them what they need to do to show that, week in, week out.

“We do have that recognition that we have to ensure that even if we’re not playing well, because that will happen at times, that we find a way to pick up points. It’s something that ultimately didn’t cost us last season in terms of where we finished, but we had some slip-ups along the way in that regard. We might still lose games, of course we will, but I think that there’s indications that we’ve improved in that respect.

“We’ve dipped a little bit performance-wise over the last week even though we still produced good results. We’ve had to find different ways to win the games, so going into Sunday, we spoke a lot about having to produce our best to win the game.”

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