Lee Johnson is adamant there is no chance of new-look Hibernian being daunted by the prospect of facing city rivals Hearts so early in the season.
The Easter Road club have been undergoing a period of transition this summer after a grim bottom-six finish last term, with their recently-installed boss adding a host of of new faces over the past couple of months.
Johnson and his players face a big test in the second weekend of the league campaign as they host the Jambos, who romped to a third-place finish in the cinch Premiership last term and are unbeaten in the last five Edinburgh derbies.
Asked if this Sunday’s game had come too soon in the bedding-in process for Hibs, the manager was in bullish mood. “Listen, we’ll soon find out,” he said. “I’m honestly going into it full of positivity.
“Of course I respect Hearts and the quality they’ve got and the stability they’ve had but we’re in this division to shake it up a little bit and this is an opportunity for us to show that.
“We’ve won the first game against St Johnstone having been in control and scored a 90th-minute winner and it’s led to a good week full of positivity.
“Just like Hearts (who beat Ross County on the opening day), we’ll be taking that into the first 20 minutes on Sunday.”
Easter Road is set to be full on Sunday and Johnson is hoping the home support are in celebratory mood at full-time.
“When you sign for a club like Hibs, with the history and stature of the club, the first fixture you look for is the Hearts game, so when it was early I was very excited by that,” he said. “The players are very excited.
“We haven’t won a derby since 2019 and it’s been too long. I want to experience listening to our fans singing Sunshine on Leith and this is the first opportunity to be able to have that.
“We’re going to have to be tactically very astute because of their qualities and the players we’ve got out. But we’re well prepared and we’re in good spirits having scored a 90th-minute winner at St Johnstone. It’s a game we’re excited for, not fearful of.
“This is a new moment for us. It’s a big test and we want to prove to this league that we can compete on terms with anybody that’s finished above us in the last couple of years.”
Hibs announced on Friday that the versatile Chris Cadden has signed a new deal. The 25-year-old initially moved to Easter Road in January 2021 on a two-and-a-half-year contract and he has now extended his agreement by an additional two years until the summer of 2025.
The Edinburgh club remain hopeful of bringing back former talisman Martin Boyle. The 29-year-old attacker joined Al Faisaly in a lucrative deal in January but is open to a return to Easter Road.
“Certainly, there’s open dialogue between the clubs from what I hear but dialogue doesn’t necessarily equate to a signing,” said Johnson. “We’ve got dialogue over four or five players at the moment because we’re still active in the market.
“Of course we’d love to bring Martin here. It won’t be cheap, it would take big investment from the ownership to be able to do that.
“What the club has done is put ourselves in a position where if Martin ever becomes available, we’re at the front of the queue. (Al Faisaly) have got to want to move him on and at the moment we just don’t know the full facts on that.”
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