ALAN Stubbs is excited by the prospect of taking Hibs to Ibrox to face Rangers in the first round of the newly-titled Petrofac Training Cup.
The two Championship big guns were paired together in yesterday’s draw at Easter Road, the venue where the Glasgow side lost last season’s final to Raith Rovers in its previous guise as the Ramsdens Cup.
Stubbs, who was confirmed as Hibs’ head coach last week, is still busy trying to rebuild a squad depleted by the mass exodus that followed relegation from the Premiership in May.
However, the Liverpudlian has no qualms about leading his new-look side along the M8 to face the most formidable side in the competition. He said: “It’s a great draw. No matter which round of a cup you are competing in, you are going to have to beat the good teams to get to where you want to be, so Rangers at Ibrox is a mouth-watering draw for the first round and I’m excited about it.”
Holders Raith begin their defence away to Fife rivals Dunfermline in the pick of the North Section ties, while Hearts make their debut in the competition at home to Annan and Lowland League champions Spartans visit Morton. Most of the games will take place on 26 July but Rangers and Hibs need to find an alternative date as Ibrox is hosting the Commonwealth Games rugby sevens event that weekend.
Rangers could have Marius Zaliukas in their ranks for that tie, with Ally McCoist confirming that the 30-year-old former Hearts captain is training with the squad in the Highlands. As another older head prepares for a move to Ibrox after the recent recruitment of veteran strikers Kenny Miller and Kris Boyd, the manager moved to defend his signing policy. “I can understand people being sceptical with players coming back and the ages of these players, but at the same time, we are not in a position to plan longer term,” said McCoist.
“Finances are dictating that the job is to get out of the division until the time comes when we can again spend money and bring players in. A year ago Kenny was scoring at Wembley for Scotland and Kris was unbelievable at Kilmarnock last season. They are tremendous professionals and the younger ones will learn a lot from them.
“They are hungry and I was the same myself. When you reach 30, a fear goes through you that you are nearing the end of your career and there is a desire to look after yourself and play for as long as possible. But we are not ignoring kids and it is nonsense to suggest otherwise.”
Meanwhile, Hibs chief executive Leeann Dempster has told disgruntled supporters that Stubbs’ budget would have to be cut by £250,000 if they demand their money back. In a frank open letter to the Easter Road faithful, she said season-ticket prices will remain the same as last year to give the new head coach the best chance of leading Hibs back to the Premiership.
Revealing that season passes had effectively dried up at the 5,400 mark, 2,200 down on this stage last year, she said: “The whole issue has caused me real concern. A small number of supporters – I would say around five per cent – have been in touch seeking a refund, with the figure of £50 the most quoted. If this was to happen and if the majority of supporters decided to take it up, it would equate to having to take about a £1/4 million out of the budget available to the head coach at a time when we need to be investing to fight our way out of the most competitive Championship ever. We know that our opponents will be seeking to match or outspend us.
“This presents a risk I really don’t want to take. To maximise our chances of heading straight back up, I have decided the best course of action is to leave prices as they are. If we are to compete in this league, every ticket and every penny becomes crucial.”
Draw in full
Arbroath v Alloa
East Fife v Forfar
Montrose v Peterhead
Elgin City v Stirling Albion
Dunfermline v Raith Rovers
Cowdenbeath v Brechin
East Stirlingshire v Falkirk
Brora Rangers v Stenhousemuir
Queen’s Park v Berwick Rangers
Rangers v Hibernian
Stranraer v Dumbarton
Hearts v Annan Athletic
Airdrieonians v Albion Rovers
Queen of the South v Livingston
Morton v Spartans
Clyde v Ayr United