IT worries me when leaders start talking about building bridges. Remember when the former prime minister, Boris Johnson, had that brainwave of building a bridge from Scotland to Northern Ireland? It sounds like the kind of daft idea concocted in a brew of McEwan’s ale and Bell’s whisky reserved for a Friday night at the Bridge Inn. But you’d think that when the hangover had subsided and he was presented with the raw data surrounding the challenges of construction on Beaufort’s Dyke, an area 300m deep and filled with a deep-sea arsenal of discarded munitions, that the blond bombscare would have given up on the thing. But no, he commissioned a feasibility study, so hungry for data was he, that would confirm how bonkers the whole notion was, with a price tag of £335bn too great even for a man willing to pay £2250 for gold wallpaper in a flat that never belonged to him.

There’s been another Englishman named Johnson talking about building fantasy bridges up here in Scotland of late, leaning on his own deep dive into data. Lee Johnson, the Hibernian manager, spoke earlier in the week about “getting closer to the Old Firm”. “We always use data,” he professed. “We present data a lot to the players.” Should this Johnson also reconsider his bridge-building dreams?

The Hibs manager stated this week that “Celtic are way out ahead and then there is Rangers, and then there are clubs like ourselves.” Right, Celtic’s nine-point lead doesn’t look like shrinking any time soon. Then there’s Rangers. Yup, a 25-point cushion to third place feels pretty cosy for Michael Beale’s side. So, does he mean Hearts as well as Hibs when he says “clubs like us”, given their Tynecastle rivals sit in third place?

This is where the facts start to get tricky for stats-man Johnson. He wants to club the Edinburgh sides together. But there is a significant difference right now between the two rivals. Not only did Robbie Neilson’s side boost their coffers with Europa Conference League group-stage football this season after sealing third place last term, but their hold on that coveted best-of-the-rest spot remains tight at present.

That has been a process the club have worked towards. From this position, Hearts have recently placed their players back in the shop window. John Souttar’s performances last season earned the Scotland defender a move to Ibrox, for instance. Lawrence Shankland, meanwhile, has grown into his role in leading the line for Hearts, the Scotland internationalist taking on the armband in place of injured club captain Craig Gordon in recent weeks and leading by example both in his goalscoring and work-rate for the team. His development is such that you could easily see one of Glasgow’s big two attempting to lure him down the M8.

Johnson, whose time at Easter Road has been punctuated by peaks and troughs in form, found himself analysing data in pursuit of big scalps in Rangers and Celtic earlier this week. “Can we bridge the gap in terms of possession and shots on target? That all comes into it. It is a very tough game but we are at the top end of our levels of belief.”

There’s that bridge again. Johnson believes some giant construction is possible, rather than accepting that Hibs are the bridge in this situation.

Having players capable of making the step up to Celtic, Rangers and beyond should be the goal of any club outside the big two in Scotland. At present, there is not one outfield player on Johnson’s books who would make either Glasgow team’s bench, while the likes of Kevin Nisbet and Josh Campbell certainly have the potential to. But back to the raw data: before their midweek trouncing at home to Rangers, Johnson spoke in the build-up of it being “a chance to bridge that gap [to the Old Firm] in a one-off game”. Perhaps he should have been looking across the city first. It’s a five-point lead Hearts enjoy over their Leith rivals. If, by Johnson’s calculations, Celtic are miles ahead at nine points, Hearts are at least a few kilometres in front.

With the Tynecastle side on the near-impossible task of a trip to Celtic Park on Wednesday night, however, this was a chance for Hibs to gain ground in what should be a race for third place. A draw would have narrowed that gap by 20 per cent. Instead, Johnson was dreaming of bridging an impossible 27-point gap to their Govan opponents, a chasm that gives the Irish Sea idea a run for its money.

Johnson, like any manager outside Celtic and Rangers, should be focused on the data that matters: results against the other nine sides, especially Hearts.

The Hibs manager got caught up in his side’s recent upturn: before the Rangers rout in midweek, his side had climbed to fourth place in the table on the back of consecutive wins against Livingston, Kilmarnock and St Mirren – all teams he should be beating. Johnson needs to forget the minefield lurking within the giant ocean to the Old Firm and focus on trying to get closer to Neilson’s side, one step at a time, because there are two stats that really matter in football: results and points on the board. Here is the data for how Hibs have fared against the three teams sitting above them in the Premiership this season: P8 W0 D2 L6 F7 A25 Pts 2 (and dumped out the cup). That should eliminate the need for a deeper dive at this time.

At present, Hearts are the most attractive proposition outside the Old Firm to players looking to increase their exposure in the Scottish game, and who knows where that platform might lead for the Gorgie club. For Johnson and Hibs, it should be about raising their own profile. Anything else at present is a bridge too far.