CELTIC hero Chris Sutton has urged Hibs fans to lay off under-pressure boss Paul Heckingbottom as he prepares for the Betfred League Cup semi-final against his former team.
The ex-Leeds and Barnsley gaffer will take his struggling team, who blew a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Ross County at the weekend, to face the holders at Hampden on Saturday night.
However, the Easter Road outfit are struggling in the Premiership, despite taking a point off Neil Lennon’s men in a 1-1 draw last month.
Edinburgh rivals Hearts face Rangers at the national stadium the following day and Sutton expects the Glasgow duo to set up an Old Firm Cup Final.
HIB HIB HOORAY…the Easter Road players celebrate Kristoffer Ajer’s own goal in the 1-1 draw.
The former striker, now a media pundit, told the Daily Record: “You look at Paul Heckingbottom and Craig Levein going into these games where no-one expects them to get a result.
“A win could transform their careers at the clubs.
“Taking a scalp in a semi-final would be a big deal. We are all thinking it will be a Celtic v Rangers Final. Hibs and Hearts have been struggling this season, so it’s important they get a result.
“I don’t think it should be the end for Heckingbottom, unless the performance is that abject.
“I can understand the fans’ frustration, but he deserves time for what he achieved when he took over. The club were in the bottom six and struggling. He got them to a respectable position.
“At the moment, some signings haven’t worked out and they clearly need to improve, but you can’t keep churning through managers. It’s too short-term.
“They have to trust him. He got the job for a reason.
JUST IN TIME…Hibs keeper Chris Maxwell claws the ball away from Hoops striker Vakoun Issouf Bayo.
“He could do with a couple of results and I know some of the fans have turned against him.
“He needs a big performance from his side and maybe that could be a turning point.
“If Celtic turn up they will wallop Hibs and he’ll be under pressure, but I don’t think he deserves the sack.”
Ironically, Heckingbottom took over at Easter Road after Lennon left the post at the turn of the year before his second stint at Parkhead following the rapid departure of Brendan Rodgers to Leicester City in February.
In the Irishman’s second game on his return – following a 2-1 league win at Tynecastle – he guided the team through a tricky Scottish Cup quarter-final against Heckingbottom’s side with second-half goals from James Forrest and Scott Brown ensuring a 2-0 win at Easter Road.
It paved the way for a 3-0 victory over Aberdeen in the semi-final and a 2-1 success over Levein’s men to seal the historic treble treble. for the Hoops.