Paul Heckingbottom knows from experience that a cup run can rescue a manager’s job and kick-start a season.
The under-fire Hibernian head coach has urged his players to seize the rare opportunity to reach a final when they take on Celtic “with nothing to lose” in the last four of the Betfred Cup on Saturday evening.
The Yorkshireman faced calls for his head on Wednesday after a sixth consecutive draw, a 2-2 comeback against Livingston, continued their wait for a league win since the opening day.
Heckingbottom is looking for a catalyst and saw a run to the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final save Lee Johnson when he was on the coaching staff at Barnsley.
Johnson left for Bristol City before Heckingbottom took over and led the Tykes to the silverware and then promotion while still caretaker manager.
“I came into the job in the new year but a cup run kept that particular manager in a job the beginning of the year,” he said. “It kept the season alive.
“In November/December the club were bottom of League One. We ended up winning a final at Wembley and getting promoted at Wembley in the same season.
“So I know what can be done. I look where we are now and we are nowhere near that situation and playing far better than that team were.
“That’s why there is no panic from my point of view but I also know and respect it’s all about results, it’s all about wins.
“A cup competition can be a nice distraction. What have we got to lose on Saturday? Go out there and give your best because the prize is certainly bigger than what you have got to lose.
“It’s everything we have been playing for. It was one of the targets at the start of the season, we wanted to do really well in the cups.
“It’s a big, big opportunity to get to a domestic cup final. As a player, I never got to one of those. It doesn’t come round very often and you have to make the most of it, and you have to be the one to fight and make it happen. It’s a big, big prize.
“It was one of the reasons I came up here. Looking at where I came from and jobs you can take down there, it was probably going to be very similar, the prize was probably going to be chasing promotion or stave off relegation.
“It was going to be less of an opportunity to compete for a domestic cup and chase for a European place. So it was one of the big, big reasons I came up.”
If Heckingbottom needed any further reminder of the insecurity of his chosen job, one came close to home when Craig Levein was sacked as Hearts boss three days before Hibernian’s rivals take on Rangers in the other semi-final.
“It’s part and parcel of the job spec, getting sacked,” Heckingbottom said. “Craig’s had success before, he’s been sacked before.
“But when you’re sitting in this seat there is certainly an empathy for everyone else doing it in terms of knowing how tough it can be and what’s potentially awaiting you. But we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t enjoy it. You’ve just got to see it as part of the job.
“Nothing lasts forever, does it? You either go on and move to another club or you get sacked. That’s it, 50-50. And probably with the length of time you are in a job it’s not 50-50, a higher percentage the way it ends will be that tap on the shoulder.
“Every club is different and circumstances are different but you have got to accept that you are going to be judged on things that you are probably only 60 per cent in control of. If you don’t like that, don’t take the job.
“All the emotions we went through on Wednesday night, what can make you feel like that? And believe me, when you’re not doing it you miss it.”
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