Monday, December 21, 2009

Believe?

Warning: Omerta Code broken.

It had to happen eventually. And it fell to Merouane Zemmama to do the talking. Following Hibs win against Aberdeen on Saturday, the jinky Moroccan trickster, faced the question that every one in green has been avoiding. Hibs, he claimed, are setting out to win the title:
All of our players are motivated and I think we will win this game. The gap between us and the Old Firm is closer than it has been. Normally Rangers and Celtic are maybe ten or 15 points ahead but now we are only five back. When you are trying to win the title you have to win every game and that's what we will try to do.

Rangers had a very good result against Motherwell and their confidence is sure to be pretty high, but our confidence is also very good at the moment. We need to keep going now to catch the Old Firm. We need to win our next game against Rangers and then keep on winning. We are looking to go as far as we can, so why not go for the title?
This confidence might come back to haunt him when Rangers come calling on Sunday. It’s also the last thing John Hughes will want to hear. And it has been greeted with disbelief in certain quarters. Andrew Smith turned his report into a lecture about how misguided Zemmama is.

The shock of it. The cheek of the man. A player in a football league actually wanting his team to win something.

There was far less outcry when Kevin Thompson, a man who is to diplomacy what Jeremy Clarkson is to global warming, suggested that the Old Firm would be 25 points clear by the end of the season. Only the Old Firm can win trophies, only Old Firm players can shoot off at the mouth.

All of this is press talk of course. It has no bearing on anything.

But the most remarkable thing I encountered over the weekend was the way a lot of Hibs fans reacted to Hearts beating Celtic. Almost to a man they were long faced about it. They’d rather see Hearts fighting relegation (an unlikely eventuality that would weaken Hibs financially) than keep themselves within touching distance of the top two.

They all think they’re fighting for third place. Nothing more.

As the season pans out there is every likelihood that things will turn out like that. But right now Hibs are point behind Celtic and five behind Rangers. If they can beat Rangers on Sunday there is a chance they could be in second place by the end of the festive fixture list. Why are the fans not savouring that prospect?

Of course Hibs might, probably will, drop away but surely everyone involved with the club should be hoping to stay in the mix for as long as possible. Is it not better to be looking a top of the table clashes in January or February than accepting third or fourth place in December?

So good luck to Zemmama. If the press don’t believe him and the fans don’t believe then maybe his confidence will be infectious enough to get through to his teammates. If that happens then, heaven forfend, we might suddenly find ourselves with a league that at least makes a slight nod in the direction of competiveness.