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A different kind of derby

THE ever-changing face of Scottish football may yet have another new complexion later this afternoon thanks to the Edinburgh derby.

Last weekend saw the start of the SPFL campaign and for me one of the biggest results was Hearts going to Ibrox and beating Rangers. That win, coupled with Hibernian beating Livingston, sets up a real opportunity for both the capital clubs to send out a statement of intent to their rivals along the M8.

Even though it's a big derby and one side is guaranteed to drop points, after a great start one of them can show that winning this league will not be a formality for Rangers. Whoever wins will put more pressure on Ally McCoist's team, who were far from convincing against Falkirk on Friday night.

Both managers will be telling their players the same thing. I know what a coaching set-up can be like, there's things you throw at your players in team talks just before a game, to try to get an edge to win it.

But both Robbie Neilson and Alan Stubbs will be pulling their guys into the dressing room and saying: "If we win this, that's six points from six, three ahead of Rangers. Let's go out and show them they're in for a fight this season."

It's still surreal that this game is taking place in the Championship. The fact that both teams have had a good start going into an Edinburgh derby is not something we've had in a good while, and the game has a different feel about it.

Who will win? Well, two weeks ago, before Hibs played Rangers in the Petrofac Training Cup I'd have said Hearts were the favourites. A lot of people - including myself - wrote off Hibs before a ball had even been kicked. But in that game, they were sorely unlucky, and they managed to simply get the job done against Livi, so it is really too close to call now.

Last season Hibs would have struggled in that Livingston match, but their character and determination got them through, and a lot of that is down to their manager. Alan has plenty of experienced of playing, and knows what a derby is all about. He played on Merseyside for Everton against Liverpool and of course for Celtic against Rangers.

I played against him when I was at Rangers, and he was a tough opponent in an Old Firm game. I scored in my first Old Firm derby with a shot which deflected in off Stubbsy. It was a 1-1 draw with Mark Viduka getting Celtic's goal.

He was hard, loved a tackle, was what you'd call an old fashioned centre-half, a dying breed who would constantly talk and organise the defence. But despite never really getting the recognition for it, Alan could play a bit and spray passes around, and you can see that now in his Hibs, who look to be playing with a bit of style and freedom.

The experience of his playing days in derbies - and the same goes for Robbie who has been a part of this fixture himself - will stand him in good stead for preparing his team to go out and play, but it won't prepare him for what he'll go through while his players are on the park. It's all down to them.

You see these Edinburgh derbies on the telly and at times it just turns into a tactical battle and ends up not being the spectacle you hoped it would be. But I think the way modern coaches think, and that includes Alan and Robbie, means this game will have an edge to it and should be entertaining. Of course, there will be tactics involved, but I have a feeling there will be goals.

MY RANT of the week comes courtesy of the latest moan from Scottish referees over their pay.

Let's get back to reality, shall we? Their point of £195 being too low a fee for taking charge of a second-tier game may be valid, but they are just trying to take advantage of the big three playing there. The salary at that level wasn't an issue before.

The fee of £840 for an hour-and-a-half's work in a top-flight game is not bad work if you can get it, either. I know they put in hours of training during the week, but I can guarantee you outwith Rangers, Hibs and Hearts in the Championship, there won't be many players on anywhere near that. There will even be a fair few in the top flight struggling to get that. Maybe the Premiership refs could give up some of their cash if they're that concerned. Hard done by? Do me a favour.

AND the final word goes to Legia Warsaw. Desperation is the only word to describe the actions of the Polish club in the last week. Reality is kicking in that not only have they missed out on the Champions League play-off, but more importantly the pay-off that goes with qualification.

Going to Celtic to emotionally blackmail them was the wrong road to go down, and now their Uefa appeal has been knocked back they are trying to go to the Court of Arbitration. They show no signs of giving up, but enough is enough. They started off with sympathy from a lot of people, but their actions over the past week have seen that dwindle away.

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