Jack Ross is confident his Hibernian players can handle the expectancy around their Betfred Cup campaign as they have been living with their own lofty ambitions all season.
Hibs go into their semi-final against St Johnstone on Saturday as favourites for the trophy after Celtic and Rangers both bowed out in the earlier rounds.
But Ross and his players explicitly targeted silverware when looking ahead to this season.
“It’s okay for us because one of the clear ambitions we had from day one of pre-season was to win silverware in this campaign,” said Ross, who has goalkeeper Ofir Marciano available after injury and hopes to have Joe Newell back too.
“So we have put expectancy upon ourselves from the first moment as players and staff. We have had this constant drive towards it. It’s not easy, it’s relentless, it’s tiring, in terms of your work to do it.
“Now we are in the semi-finals of another cup, it wouldn’t have mattered which teams were involved at this stage. That expectancy and ambition to win silverware has been there and will continue to be there.
“It’s completely irrelevant to me whether we are seen as favourites, second favourites, outsiders, whatever it may be.
“It’s just about us affecting what we can, which is about controlling our performance and hopefully being on the right side of the result.”
Hibs are also showing they can meet expectations in the league, sitting third in the Scottish Premiership. They have never been out of the top four all season and have normally been in third or higher.
“The important thing when you set ambitions or goals is that there has to be a realism around them,” Ross said. “First of all I don’t think it can be just me that sets them, it has to be a collective and that’s what we have done all the time.
“There has to be the buy-in from the players and staff and, once you have a common agreement on what is achievable, it helps.
“The fact that we settled into a rhythm quickly this season, anybody that had any doubts I think quickly put them aside to come into line with the people who thought ‘yeah, this is possible for us to be successful this season in the league and the cups’.
“When you see steps in the right direction early in the process, it helps.”
One major setback has been a derby defeat by Hearts in last season’s delayed Scottish Cup semi-finals, but Ross will use lessons from that experience ahead of this weekend.
“The first one and most important one is not to have that feeling again, because it’s painful, it hurts, it’s sore,” the former Alloa, St Mirren and Sunderland manager said.
“It might sound very obvious but the rawness of that is felt very acutely by those that are involved at the coalface.
“We want to have the feeling of elation that you get by reaching a final, so that’s a big driver for us.
“And to broaden it out, we have had the feeling of playing at the national stadium in strange circumstances, because there’s no crowd, no crowd noise pumped in.
“The very few people in the stadium were very far away from the players so there was no noise whatsoever, so it is slightly eerie, but we have obviously experienced it.
“It’s a similar kick-off time as well, so that should hopefully stand us in good stead.”