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Hearts v Hibernian: 7-0, 6-2, 5-1 . . . it all adds up to an Edinburgh cracker

THE toasts in the heady atmosphere of Tynecastle tonight will vary between those bedecked in green and those in maroon.

Ryan McGowan is the latest of Hearts Scottish Cup winners to leave
Ryan McGowan is the latest of Hearts Scottish Cup winners to leave

Hibernian supporters will carry an air of auld lang syne while Hearts are resigned to salute a departed friend.

It is 40 years since Hibs defeated their oldest rivals 7-0 in this fixture and they will travel across the city looking to increase a six-point advantage over the Gorgie side. They will be encouraged by facing a Hearts team without the influential Ryan McGowan, who is travelling to China to finalise a £400,000 transfer to Shandong Luneng Taishan.

The Australian has left with a heartfelt toast from manager John McGlynn, who said: "He really is an amazing boy and every one of the players, fans and staff have taken to him. He is a winner – a 100% player – who gives everything every week. He is also a very good player."

The 23-year-old, who is out of contract in the summer, has not yet signed for the Chinese club but Hearts decided to allow him to attempt to conclude the transfer rather than play in tonight's derby. "From that point of view, fans will be saying that he is still a Hearts player and should play, but if he got a serious injury that deal would go down the tubes and this football club needs the money," said McGlynn.

He warned, too, that McGowan may not be the last to leave the club in this window, saying: "I don't think we are in a position to turn down any reasonable offer. We really just have to survive until the summer."

This was a testimony to the stark reality at a club who have been hit by a transfer embargo after being charged over a failure to pay bonuses and appearance monies and of failing to inform the Scottish Premier League of the non-payment "in a timely manner".

If Hearts are open for business, if only in a selling capacity, Hibs are focused on attempting to hold on to players during the transfer window. Pat Fenlon, the Hibs manager, hopes to extend stays for striker Leigh Griffiths, defender Ryan McGivern, who is likely to return to the side tonight after recovering from a hamstring injury, and midfielder Jorge Claros, whose loan deals expire this month.

Fenlon is buoyed both by his side's 1-0 victory over Celtic on Saturday and the observation that tonight's match comes just two days after the 40th anniversary of Hibs' 7-0 thrashing of Hearts on New Year's Day in 1973. "We've been fantastic all season," he said. "It's going to be a tasty atmosphere and a decent game. I'm looking forward to it. Both the games we've played here have been fairly tight and close with some decent football.''

He held out hope, too, for some composed play. "Hibs-Hearts is normally frantic and probably will be for a period. We feel we've got some players who can go in and play," he said. "With the team we have, we feel we can go there and cause them problems."

There is a theory that states that the balance of power may be changing in Edinburgh with Hibs in the ascendancy after a period when Hearts racked up eight wins and four draws in the derby, including a 5-1 thrashing of their rivals in the Scottish Cup final last year.

Predictably, it does not find a supporter in John Sutton, the Hearts striker. "I think 'power shift' is a bit strong," the Hearts striker said. "At the end of the season if they're in second and we're where we are at the moment, they've won the Scottish Cup and we haven't done very well in the League Cup, maybe you can talk about it then."

However, he has noticed an improvement in Hibs. "Certainly they're a different proposition to play against this year. They are a lot more difficult side to play against. I think the results have shown that."

As in all derbies, there will be a nervous recital of the omens among both sets of fans. The green and white hordes will reflect on 7-0 in 1973 and 6-2 in 2000 while Hearts have the more recent triumph of 5-1 at Hampden to proclaim. Indeed, a Hearts supporter recently was photographed with Fenlon and Rod Petrie, chairman of Hibs, while making a 5-1 gesture.

In a spirit of mischief, Petrie has responded in his Christmas message to supporters. Petrie said: "We have sold out our allocation for the Edinburgh derby at Tynecastle, so we know that the team will have a vocal and enthusiastic backing. As we leave 2012 and all its highs and lows behind, I'm sure we can expect a few high 5-1 greetings at Tynecastle – the problem is that Hibernian supporters just do not have enough fingers for a 7-0 or a 6-2 reply."

It all points to a traditional derby atmosphere.

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