Liam Fontaine became accustomed to the Edinburgh derby hype ahead of his visits to Tynecastle as a Hibernian player, but the defender is relishing a fresh challenge that awaits when Ross County take on Hearts today.
Englishman Fontaine spent three-and-a-half years with Hibs, during which he regularly came up against the Jambos in the heat of the capital rivalry.
Fontaine will be part of County’s squad which comes up against Craig Levein’s side today, and he is determined to embrace the task of helping the newly-promoted Staggies spring a surprise in their second Premiership fixture of the campaign.
Fontaine said: “It’s a great stadium to play football at – it’s an even better venue with the new stand completed.
“The atmosphere is there, the pitch is tight. It’s just one of those places where, if you can’t get up for that game, what are you playing football for?
“I had great memories in the derby – really positive ones.
“That was then, this is now. It’s a new challenge for me, and us as a club. It’s a different type of challenge, because it’s one of the better clubs in the league.
“It’s going to be a different type of game. We will have to first and foremost put in the work rate we had against Hamilton – that will be no different in any game this season.
“They are going to give us different problems to deal with, and we have to all stand up as individuals.”
Fontaine helped County open the campaign with a 3-0 victory over Hamilton Accies last weekend, and the 33-year-old hopes to maintain the feelgood factor following the Staggies’ Championship title-winning campaign last term.
He added: “It was clear for everyone to see the intent was set out very early, in how we were approaching that game.
“When you go through a season of winning, and being champions, I think you get into that habit and you know what it feels like to win games.
“Hopefully that will put us in good stead in a lot of games where, if we do go behind, we won’t just crumble. We will have that fight, and we will know how to hang into a game and try to get back into it.
“We are always going to be a threat because at the moment we are creating a lot of chances.”
After missing much of last season through a ruptured achilles, Fontaine slotted back into County’s backline for last weekend’s match however the former Bristol City defender knows he faces stiff competition for a centre half berth, adding: “I was back training fully before the end of the season and I didn’t want it to stop. I spent the whole summer just itching to get back.
“Last Saturday was my first league start since the injury back in November. It was good to be back and get the result we needed.
“I’m back in the team at the moment. We don’t know the squad selection for the weekend but, as an individual, you just do everything you can to be ready.”