ALAN Stubbs will renew an emotional attachment with Hibs supporters first forged 13 years ago if, as is now widely anticipated, he becomes the club’s new manager.
The 42-year-old looks set to replace Terry Butcher in the Easter Road hotseat after impressing new chief executive Leann Dempster when he was among the candidates interviewed for the role last week.
Stubbs, who faced strong competition from former Hibs assistant manager Mark Venus, could be formally unveiled by the club as soon as today.
It was at Easter Road back in May 2001 when Stubbs made a connection with the club’s fans which he has never forgotten. In his first appearance for Celtic following his battle against cancer, the English defender scored the fourth goal in a 5-2 win for the Parkhead men. Despite the disappointment of seeing their team heavily beaten, the Hibs support that afternoon cheered Stubbs’ goal.
Stubbs had discovered by chance he was suffering from testicular cancer after he was randomly selected to take part in the post-match doping tests after playing for Celtic in their 1999 Scottish Cup final defeat by Rangers at Hampden.
After making an initial recovery, Stubbs suffered a setback in November 2000 when it emerged that the cancer had returned. Once again he successfully overcame the disease and by the end of that season was able to return to action.
His first-team comeback came as a substitute in that match at Easter Road and he later reflected on the response he received from the home support.
“My first game back was against Hibs and the reception I got when I came on in the second half was amazing,” said Stubbs. “Even the Hibs fans gave me a standing ovation. It was touching, very emotional, something that will live with me for the rest of my life. I would like to thank all the Hibs fans for that.”
After a recurring knee injury forced him to end his playing career in 2008, the former Bolton, Everton, Sunderland and Derby County central defender returned to Goodison Park at the invitation of then manager David Moyes to begin his coaching career.
Initially assistant-manager of the Everton reserve team, he then took full charge of their under-21 side. He was interviewed for the first-team managerial vacancy last summer, when Moyes left for Manchester United, but lost out to Roberto Martinez. Stubbs is expected to be assisted at Hibs by David Unsworth, the former England defender who has been his number two with the Everton under-21s since last September.
Stubbs will become Hibs’ seventh managerial appointment within the past eight years, reflecting the high casualty rate in the job since Tony Mowbray called time on his relatively successful two-and-a-half year tenure in 2006. None of the six men who followed Mowbray – John Collins, Mixu Paatelainen, John Hughes, Colin Calderwood, Pat Fenlon and Butcher – has been able to make it to a second anniversary of his appointment.
While Dempster will be keen for Stubbs to be a long-term part of her overall plans to revitalise Hibs, he will also come under pressure to hit the ground running in what promises to be a ferociously competitive Championship season also featuring Rangers and Hearts.
The Hibs first-team squad are scheduled to report for the first day of pre-season training today. Only 15 senior players remain, 11 having been released in the immediate aftermath of relegation from the Premiership.
Stubbs will have to move quickly to replenish his playing resources. The recruitment of at least one goalkeeper will be among his priorities, as both first choice Ben Williams and deputy Sean Murdoch were among those discarded last month.
Hibs’ first competitive fixture will be in the first round of the Challenge Cup on 26 July. They will begin their Championship campaign on 9 August with a home match against Livingston, before facing Hearts at Tynecastle the following weekend in the first Edinburgh derby showdown of the season.