Football Expert & Columnist
Andy Walker says the heat will be on in this Sunday's Edinburgh derby
Defeat to a weakened Hearts side could cost Pat Fenlon his Hibs job, says Andy Walker.
Last Updated: 07/08/13 5:45pm
Hearts have had enormous problems since entering administration in the close season with debts of £25million owed to companies formerly owned by disgraced owner Vladimir Romanov. Consequently, the Tynecastle club were given a 15-point deduction for this season and relegation seems inevitable.
Experienced players have left the club and with a slim squad to call upon, manager Gary Locke has no option other than to play inexperienced youngsters following a registration embargo that denies him the opportunity to sign new players.
John Sutton chose to leave the club and sign for Motherwell but other experienced players such as Jamie Hamill, Ryan Stevenson and Jamie MacDonald have agreed to wage cuts.
Given that all these players could've gone elsewhere for a similar salary it's no surprise to learn that their stance has brought huge admiration from the manager and loyal supporters.
With a strong sense of togetherness and people willing to fight for the cause, Hearts won't lack for team spirit on Sunday in the cauldron of Tynecastle.
Even without the 15-point penalty survival in the SPFL would be a tall order but this is a derby at home against their bitter rivals who are also struggling badly.
But make no mistake: Hearts will fancy their chances on Sunday, despite their troubles.
The contrast between Hearts and Hibs off the pitch in recent years has been extraordinary.
In recent years when Hearts were spending ridiculous sums of money on player wages and huge squads, Hibs were being run properly and had the added bonus of selling players like Scott Brown, Kevin Thomson, Steven Fletcher and Steven Whittaker for huge profit.
But now, under Pat Fenlon, you get the feeling the fans are unconvinced that he's the man to take them forward. Losing 5-1 to Hearts in the Scottish Cup final two seasons ago was the ultimate embarrassment and humiliation.
I watched on in disbelief two weeks ago as Hibs lost 7-0 at home to Malmo in a Europa League qualifier. As a direct result of that embarrassing defeat, it was a scared and fearful Hibs side that lost at home to Motherwell on the opening day of the season.
Football can be a brutal business and there's no doubt that Hibs fans would expect their team to go to Tynecastle and see their more experienced men run over the top of young Hearts players who have been fast-tracked into the team.
When you consider Hearts and their fragile position, of course Hibs should be too strong for a weakened opponent - but their confidence is low and a defeat may well result in Fenlon's time in charge coming to an end.
New signings Rowan Vine and James Collins should be able to make all the difference but it's a great pity that Alex Harris looks likely to miss out through injury.
I'll certainly be interested to see the approach of the Hibs team.
They won in dramatic circumstances at Tynecastle in April when Ross Caldwell scored a delightful winner but, crucially, Hibs had Leigh Griffiths then; he scored a fabulous equaliser from a free-kick and time and time again last season, the Wolves striker was their saviour.
To ensure Fenlon regains the faith of the Hibs support, he'll have to come up with another match-winner to satisfy supporters that want to see a better product on the park.