HIBERNIAN head coach Alan Stubbs wants his players to embrace the prospect of a fixture pile-up if they reach the William Hill Scottish Cup final.
Hibs could spark another severe fixtures headache for the Scottish Professional Football League on Saturday by beating Falkirk to book a Hampden return on May 30, the day before the scheduled date for the Scottish Premiership play-off final second leg.
The SPFL would face little option but to extend the season should Hibs make both finals - and Stubbs is keen to have several big occasions to look forward to despite the obvious priority being a return to the top flight.
Stubbs, who is aiming to be the first Hibs manager to lift the Scottish Cup since 1902, said: “I hope it’s a nice distraction. I would take that all day long. If we got to a Scottish Cup final, I don’t think it would make any difference what we had to do. It would be a great occasion.
“The chance to create history, it doesn’t get any better than that.
“Every manager would like to be in a position where every game seems to be a big game. It means the players are doing something right. I’m happy with the way the players are at this moment, their levels of performance have increased in the last few weeks.
Every manager would like to be in a position where every game seems to be a big game. It means the players are doing something rightAlan Stubbs
“At the beginning of the season, we knew it was going to be difficult to gain automatic promotion with the way we found ourselves, especially with Rangers, everyone thought they would be the favourites to go up. But Hearts have done fantastic to finish as champions.
“Realistically we wanted to finish in the play-off positions and we have managed to do that. We wanted to do well in one of the cups. We were a penalty away from being in a semi-final of one, against Dundee United, and we are in the semi-final of the major one. We have done reasonably well and we just need to finish it off now.”
Stubbs has played in play-off and cup finals for Bolton and Celtic and he knows his players need to be mentally attuned to the rigours of such important games.
The former Everton skipper said: “First of all, you need a little bit of luck along the way, whether it’s keeping your players fit or decisions.
“You need players to play under pressure. When you are playing in big games it brings a different type of pressure and you need to perform under that.
“Most importantly you have got to be relaxed and enjoy it, because you don’t know when these things come along again. You have to enjoy the moment and see where it takes you.”
One player who is revelling in the run-in is Farid El Alagui, whose season was in danger of ending when he ruptured an Achilles tendon in August. But he has returned in recent weeks and got on the scoresheet as Hibs beat Hearts on Sunday.
The former Falkirk striker said: “When I was injured and trying to get back before the end of the season, I wanted to get ready for these big games.
“This is why you play football and when you are injured you always look at the fixtures. When you see the fixtures and all these exciting games, you push yourself even more to make sure you are going to be ready.
“For the confidence it was really good to prepare by winning the derby, especially the way we did it. We were outstanding in the first half. But it will be a totally different game against Falkirk.
“Falkirk always manage to produce some good young players, that seems to be a trademark of them.
“They have had a really good season so it will be tough but if we manage to do everything right and play our game, then I think it will be a very good game.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS