IF MANAGER of Hibernian has become Scottish football’s most hazardous job on account of the sheer volume of men hired, only to be spat out again, then Alan Stubbs showed no signs of being daunted yesterday as he revealed how he could have stayed at Everton but that Easter Road presented him with an unmissable opportunity.
The easy option for the Goodison under-21s coach would have been to stay on Merseyside and continue the job of tutoring some of the English Premier League’s finest young talent. Instead he’s chosen to renew his association with Scotland at a club that seem to be in an almost permanent state of flux, if not actual turmoil, with the last highly-rated manager appointed without dissent only to be dumped seven months later.
Officially unveiled as Terry Butcher’s replacement – and Hibs’ eighth manager in ten years – Stubbs smiled wryly when asked if he was worried about the high casualty rate. “I had heard about it,” he said. “Yes you can talk about the turnover of managers at the club but for me this is a fantastic opportunity to get things right.”
Ex-Celtic captain Stubbs, who has the title of head coach, was speaking at Hibs’ training complex at East Mains, flanked by chief executive Leeann Dempster who made the appointment. At the interview they impressed each other.
“I didn’t have to leave Everton,” he added. “I had a comfortable job and was well paid and it was very satisfying bringing through some of the best talent in English football. But I’d come to the point where I needed a new challenge. I always knew I would step into management – it was just a case of when. Speaking to Leeann and hearing her vision was a big thing.”
Dempster said: “When I met Alan he was determined and focused and had a winning attitude. I’ve worked with a few managers and you’ve got to have a rapport and be on the same page as someone and when we met we had very strong opinions and we were on that same page and determined about the task in hand. We’ll have a close working relationship and it’s really important to have that dynamic. At our meeting I was confident in everything Alan said. He is very strong on the idea of a different structure in the club and we agreed on style and vision.
“I’ve been aware of Alan for a number of years. It’s my job as a ceo to look at the up-and-coming people and be planning for the future and he’d been on my radar. I was delighted when he put his name forward because it showed a desire to be part of the club – we weren’t having to persuade someone. In fact we met very late one evening after an event Alan had been at in Scotland and that to me showed he was determined to meet us and to have the conversation. I’m very happy about the outcome and looking forward to the season.”
One element of that new structure is already in place with George Craig having joined in a post called head of football operations. Another should be added on Monday when the club hope to announce the head coach’s assistant.
“I’m the manager with a head-coach title,” added Stubbs. “George will take some of the football aspect away and I’ll be working closely with Leeann. It’s exciting. Leeann has come here for an opportunity and it’s a challenge for us all. We want to put this club back to where it belongs.”
Right now, after their incredible stumble last season, Hibs are in the Championship. Asked about the player budget Stubbs would receive, Dempster said: “We are in the Championship, so there is a reality in terms of the income we can generate but we will have a good budget in this division.”
She wouldn’t reveal the sum though, stressing that yesterday “wasn’t about money but about introducing Alan to the supporters. People might want to look at the negatives, but we have a budget, we have a group of players and we have a determination to get out of this division as quickly as possible.”
A group, yes, but one that will need serious additions and quickly. Stubbs, however, see the positive in beginning with a modest number following the departure of 15 players the day after relegation was confirmed. “When you come into a club you normally have to get rid of ten to 12 players. I’m not in the position. Another one or two may leave but there will be a lot more coming in and they will be my appointments. It’s a good thing but we do need to move quickly. I don’t want to find myself a week before the start of the season that I don’t have the players I want.
“As of right now, if I said I hadn’t had calls from 100 agents I’d be lying. In a way that’s good but I have to make sure the players are good enough. It won’t happen that guys are signed just to fill gaps. I want to build a squad that’s worthy of representing Hibs.”