Former Caley Thistle skipper Bobby Mann says coping with Hearts’ physicality holds the key to Inverness’ hopes of reaching the Scottish Cup final.
Caley Jags take on the Jambos at Hampden Park tomorrow, with John Robertson’s men the underdogs against the side currently sitting sixth in the Premiership.
With Hearts boss Craig Levein having come under pressure following last weekend’s 2-1 Edinburgh derby defeat to Hibernian, Mann expects his counterpart John Robertson to instill a firm belief in the Caley Jags’ players.
Defender Mann, who left Inverness to join Dundee in 2004, said: “They played Hearts at the start of the season and got a bit of a hammering, but that was another game.
“I’m sure they will be looking forward to playing at Hampden, there will obviously be a few nerves but they will be hoping they play well.
“They saw Partick Thistle in the last round play quite well against Hearts, and Inverness will feel they are just as good if not better than Partick.
“If they play to their best they will give themselves a wee chance, and if Hearts are not it gives them a better chance.
“With the circumstances of the way Hearts are playing just now, there is a bit of unrest with their fans about the manager and the style of play.
“Inverness will have to deal with that physicality, and if they do it will give them a good chance.”
Mann played under Robertson during his first stint in charge at Caledonian Stadium, and was part of a side which reached back to back Scottish Cup semi finals in 2003 and 2004. Inverness lost narrowly on both occasions, with a 1-0 loss to Dundee followed by a 3-2 replay defeat to Dunfermline at Pittodrie 12 months later, after the sides had shared a 1-1 draw at Hampden Park.
Mann added: “We were a group of players who had been together for a few years. In the first one against Dundee we didn’t play very well, I don’t know if that was down to Dundee or nerves. They scored late on and that was that.
“We definitely played better the next time against Dunfermline, but eventually went out after a replay. They were both well established Scottish Premier League teams at the time.
“There was a belief because on both occasions, with no disrespect to Dundee or Dunfermline, but we probably beat just as good teams to get there.
“We beat Celtic in 2003 in the quarter final. They had beaten Liverpool in the UEFA Cup on the Thursday night, before we played them on the Sunday and managed to beat them.
“We then beat Motherwell away from home in the quarter-final the following year.
“John was excellent, he came in and it was his first go at management. He was very enthusiastic and had the experience of Donald Park helping him.
“We were not a bad team then, we were very open under Steve Paterson but John and Donald probably brought that bit more tactical awareness.
“He has been excellent since going back. It’s maybe just a club that fits him.”