Hibs manager Alan Stubbs tells Moira Gordon he and David Weir had a perfect understanding
If contempt feeds off familiarity, someone forgot to tell Alan Stubbs. The Hibernian manager is delighted to see his former playing and coaching partner David Weir return to the Scottish game, even if it does mean it could make his own job tougher.
The two were tasked with shoring up the Everton defence during their time together at Goodison Park and went on to form a useful coaching relationship when they took charge of the club’s Under-21 set-up, so, having developed a decent understanding on and off the pitch, Stubbs knows as well as anyone what benefits the new Rangers assistant manager will bring to the role at Ibrox.
“We have obviously had a lot of on-the-pitch and off-the-pitch activity together. We had a very good partnership together on the pitch at Everton and then Davie came in and worked with me with the Under-21s. When he asked to come in Davie Moyes said he could and he asked if he could come in and work alongside me as my assistant and we had a good time together. He is a very knowledgeable coach. He is intelligent, which is not something you can say about a lot of footballers but he is an intelligent guy.”
Surprised that Weir’s first job as a manager, at Sheffield United, did not turn out to be a success, he says he has spoken to Weir since and knows he has no regrets. “That’s sometimes the way football can go. Sometimes you can go in and hit the ground running and it all takes off,” said Stubbs. “Other times, for whatever reason, it doesn’t and he found it difficult to get a result. One result went to two, three, four and it was possibly 11 games and they decided to take action.
“It wasn’t a great baptism for Davie in terms of management but it was definitely a huge learning curve.”
It’s a huge challenge for Mark (Warburton), one he wouldn’t have come across in his short time in management
Those cerebral qualities have always been a huge asset, according to Stubbs. “We had a really good understanding and I knew his game and he knew my game and we read the game very well. We weren’t exactly blessed with speed but we were very intelligent as footballers and we read the game really well. We were very quick in the brain and if you have got that, it can be as good as being fast. Sometimes you can be quick and thick… we weren’t that. But I’m delighted for him. He has obviously got a really close affinity with Rangers and he did fantastic there as a player but it will be a big challenge for him. He is not going in with his eyes closed but it will be a bit different for Mark.”
If speed was not a key commodity in the Weir game, Stubbs says that his former team-mate and Rangers manager Mark Warburton will have to show a burst of pace in assembling a squad they feel can push for Championship glory.
Having missed out on the title and promotion last term, the demand is high but Stubbs is equally keen to land those prizes. He believes that the appointment of the new Ibrox management team has increased the difficulty factor for him and every other club in the division, though.
“It’s a huge challenge for Mark, one he wouldn’t have come across in his short time in management. I have had quite a few chats with Mark when he was at Brentford and he is also an intelligent man. He has only been in football a relatively short time and he took over a talented squad from Uwe [Rosler] and he got them up and then last season they were a revelation and took the championship by surprise and they were very close in the end as well.
“I think Mark will bring in some good players. Not to say that previous managers didn’t, but he has a good eye for young players and he has good contacts in England and has been around quite a few of the clubs and potentially he will bring in a couple of loan signings from some of the clubs there and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that. So I’m looking forward to pitting my wits against them.”
The advantage he says he has is that his squad is virtually assembled and they have been over the course before. Stability has been central to his plans, sticking to minor tweaks in key areas.
“I’m not making wholesale changes. I’m adding to the squad in little bits but there is the nucleus of a really strong team and I think it will be a strong challenge, not just with Rangers but with the likes of St Mirren. Falkirk, I’m sure, will be there or thereabouts and James [Fowler] at Queen of the South, although his squad has been decimated, and Raith will be there and Morton will surprise a few coming up. It has the makings of an interesting league. “We all thought it was going to be Rangers who would walk it last year and we were wrong and I’m hoping it will be the same this season.”