Lee Johnson has challenged on-form Hibernian to deliver an “energetic” performance against Rangers as the Easter Road club prepare to celebrate the life of their late owner Ron Gordon over the coming days.
On Tuesday afternoon, a fortnight on from Gordon’s passing, aged 68, the Hibees will stage a private memorial service in Edinburgh, which will be attended by the businessman’s family, Hibs’ board of directors, players, staff and invited guests.
In the evening at the Hibernian AGM, the club will pause to remember their owner. And on Wednesday, ahead of kick-off in the first home match since he died, the club will pay a special tribute to Gordon, where supporters will be able to “show their appreciation and remember him together”.
“Tuesday is obviously going to be a big day for us all,” manager Johnson said, referring to the memorial service.
“It’s my job then to lift the players because there’s going to be that feeling grief, a sombre feeling if you like, but at the same time, I also want to celebrate Ron’s life and I want that energy and enthusiasm to come out in our performance, as it did on Saturday (in the 4-1 win at Livingston).
“It will be another emotional day, no doubt about that, and all me and the players can do is concentrate on putting on a big performance to make everybody proud.”
Hibs have won five and drawn two of their last seven league matches to move up to fourth in the cinch Premiership after a difficult ending to 2022.
Johnson is confident his side are equipped to take something against a Rangers side who are unbeaten in the league since Michael Beale took charge in November.
“Rangers will be a tough game but we are in a place where we truly believe we can get something,” he said. “We carry a threat and they will have to be aware of our threats.
“I genuinely feel like we can have a go at them and make it uncomfortable for them. I’m excited about the game.
“I’m not being disrespectful to Rangers because you’ve got to get a balance between showing them respect and showing them what you’re about. Hopefully that first 20 minutes will be electric.
“It would be huge if we can beat Rangers because it would be a statement to ourselves that we’re moving in the right direction.”
Johnson is keen to ensure Hibs – who have closed to within five points of third-place city rivals Hearts – maintain their good form and seal a place in Europe.
“Europe is a big part of our progression, there’s no doubting that,” said the manager. “We want to be in that. We want the fans dusting their passports off to be able to go and travel in Europe and to be playing in these games.
“That’s what we’re fighting for. We’ve got a clear focus. It’s been a battle of a season. At the moment we’re in a good phase but we’re also very aware we’ve got a very tough set of fixtures moving forward.”