Boyhood Birmingham fan Joe Newell thrilled by Hibs clash with Villa

The midfielder knows his side face a tough tie against the English giants.

Boyhood Birmingham fan Joe Newell thrilled by Hibs clash with Aston Villa SNS Group

Hibernian midfielder Joe Newell has added motivation when his side face Aston Villa in the Europa Conference League play-off, having grown up as a fan of Birmingham City.

Newell grew up in Tamworth and was a season-ticket holder at St Andrews, cheering Birmingham City on when they faced Villa in derby matches.

Now, as Hibernian prepare for the first leg against the English side at Easter Road on Wednesday, he admits the tie will mean split loyalties between family and friends.

“There’s one dodgy picture of me in a Villa top when I was four but I’m a Blues fan, always have been,” Newell said

“There’s a lot more Villa where I’m from. My fiancee is Villa, my dad’s Blues, his brother is Villa. My best mate is diehard Villa.

“Listen, I’d love to beat them, don’t get me wrong. But whether it was Sunday at home to Raith in the cup or Villa at home on Wednesday, you go into each game trying to win. I won’t let (being a Birmingham fan) get into my thinking too much.”

Hibernian have defeated Andorran side Inter and Swiss outfit Luzern to reach the play-off but Newell admits the step up to face an English Premier League side is huge. Nevertheless, he’s hoping a sell-out crowd at Easter Road can help the side to an upset as they try to reach the group stage of the competition.

“We probably couldn’t have got a harder draw but both legs will be very special,” the midfielder added. “No matter what the outcome, we’ve got to enjoy it, work hard and give a good account of ourselves.

“Some people would call us underdogs in the Luzern game but they were a top side and we scored five goals and got through.

“Villa are a massive club, their finances will be chalk and cheese compared to us, they’ve just put four past Everton at the weekend, so we know how hard it will be. But it’s football, it’s a sell-out at Easter Road and anything can happen.

“I’m really excited. We’re buzzing, the mood’s very good. We’ve got a lot of confidence and excitement going into the game. We know it’s obviously going to be a tough game against a top side, a massive club, but this is what you want to do, growing up you want to play in these games.

“The European games are a pleasure to play in. There were so many big games last year that we went into thinking about (the possibility of) these nights.

“We grafted so hard to make the top six and then to make the European places for this reason. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it so far. We’ve got two more games to try and get into the group stages, which would obviously be amazing.”

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