How Arsenal's Petr Cech and Bernd Leno primed Matt Macey for Hibs pressure at Rangers
Training alongside top quality goalkeepers, he tried to soak in as much as he could and as the Easter Road side travel to Ibrox today to face a largely hostile crowd, stoked by a growing sense of rivalry between the clubs, he will tap into that education.
“Just seeing how they worked around big games...I was lucky enough to work quite closely with world class keepers - Petr Cech was a bit of a master in staying cool under pressure, Bernd Leno as well. I learned by watching how they approached the week and how they go into games,” explained the 27 year-old.
“I saw the way they behaved around match day and that’s something I try to apply now. For me, this season, I have tried to use that and it’s not just the big games. It’s also the way they approach a smaller game, if you want to call it that. That’s why they play at the top level — because they produce week-in, week-out. They give great consistency. That’s what I’m trying to do here.”
Arriving at Hibs in the midst of the pandemic, the Englishman received a muted introduction to the Scottish game. But with the return of fans he has enjoyed the voluble backing provided this season. This afternoon there will be plenty of noise and passion but, again, there will be no away fans. For some teams that might prove intimidating but Macey believes that he and his top-of-the-table-chasing colleagues have the mental armoury to repel the negativity.
“I’m ready for it. I play football to play in the big games, that’s why I came to Hibs, to get that test of the high-pressure, high profile games and the big atmospheres. That’s what tempted me to come up here and not go somewhere else, like League One in England.
“For me, I go into these big games looking forward to it and being excited by it and the Hearts’ game was a good example of that. I was just looking forward to it the night before.”
Unperturbed by the possible impact of a partisan crowd, Macey says the bigger focus will be on keeping the likes of his former Arsenal team-mate Glen Kamara quiet.
“I played with Glen for a couple of years in the reserves at Arsenal. It’s really good to see him being the player that a lot of us knew he could be. He didn’t really get a chance at Arsenal, which happens for many young players and as a central midfielder and that’s probably the hardest place to break into the Arsenal first-team.
“I just remember that when I was playing with Glen, I could give him the ball anywhere on the pitch and he would keep it. I think he shows that when he plays for Rangers.
“He’s showing everyone what a good player he is and it’s really good to see that even if you don’t make it at Arsenal, you can still go on and have a really good career.”