Olly Lee was the Hearts hero at Easter Road in December. He’s hoping he and his maroon teammates can stretch the Jambos’ unbeaten run over Hibs to four games when the two sides from the capital lock horns at Tynecastle on Saturday.
The former Luton midfielder scored a screamer in the last Edinburgh derby, netting from range to give his side a slender 1-0 victory at the home of their rivals.
The midfielder told NTOF about his moment of glory.
“Yeah it was a good moment. It’s obviously one of the highlights of the season for me. It was a really nice moment,” he said.
“They are brilliant occasions. They are crazy and mad and you feel all the passion from the fans. These are the games you want to be involved in. I’ve said many a time these are the reasons why I came up to Scotland to play football, for these crazy spectacles. They’re great to be part of.”
“Keeping a cool head”
The Edinburgh derby is well known for being a fiery encounter. Already this season the clash has seen 10 yellow cards and one red, with Hibs’ Florian Kamberi being sent off back in October. That coincided with a massive scrap in the middle of the park involving both sets of players.
Lee knows how important it is for both fans and players alike to keep a lid on things.
He said: “In my first Edinburgh derby I was getting quite a bit of abuse from Hibs fans in the corner. It’s all well and good, I expect that. As long it’s within the realm of what you expect from fans and it’s good banter, then it’s welcomed to be honest.
“Lots of players in the past have stepped over that line that you shouldn’t really go over. It’s about keeping a cool head in a fiery situation in my opinion. I think the passion from the fans emanates onto the pitch. It’s about using that passion to play that one or two per cent better and not go that percentage over the line.”
A physical battle
Having played in two Edinburgh derbies, Lee knows it won’t be a walk in the park against the men from Leith. The encounters are usually tight, with six of the last seven fixtures being decided by a maximum of one goal.
Lee hopes the game is not a stop-start affair.
“Sometimes the referees lose their whistles every now and then, especially when big Uche Ikpeazu is playing!
“It’s all good, all the fans want to see it, the players want to see it. We just want to play the game. There’s nothing worse as a player when the game is constantly stop-starting and there’s niggling fouls. The more the game can flow, the better for us and the fans.
“These are the moments you live for, these are the games you tell your grandkids about, when something brilliant happens. That’s what you play football for.”
Another physical presence returning to the Hearts team will be striker Ikpeazu. Jambos boss Craig Levein confirmed the striker has recovered from a head knock he picked up against Aberdeen.
The Englishman believes this is a big boost for his team.
“Ikpeazu is a big player for us. We like to play towards him and play to his strengths. He scored at the weekend and he puts himself about. Obviously Aberdeen have got a big strong defence and he caused them all sorts of problems.
“He’s got ability and physique that not many other players have. He can be a handful even on a bad day, but hopefully he’ll have a good day.”
Keeping the action on the park
With unsavoury scenes both on and off the park marring previous Edinburgh derbies this season, both teams could be doing with a controversy free game. The off-field incidents especially have been major talking points after recent fixtures. It would be nice to solely talk about the football.
Passion sometimes takes over in the heat of the moment, but Lee is hoping that doesn’t transcend from the stands to the pitch.
“We don’t want the fans passion from the side taking over the game and having sour scenes like we have had previously.
“Hopefully we can keep it clean off the park and have a good game on the pitch. When your in the game your focused on your next involvement in the game. It’s only afterwards when you see images back, and you think that’s not quite right, and it shouldn’t be happening.
“Hopefully we won’t see any more of that and we’ll have a good game.”