HIBS manager Alan Stubbs would love to see his squad eat into the lead enjoyed by Hearts and Rangers during the festive period but while he wants them gorging on glory, he trusts them not to overindulge when it comes to other Christmas goodies.
“The biggest thing, and it’s not just in football, it’s in general, it’s trust. And they’ve got someone here who is prepared to trust them. If they step over the mark then they can forget it. So, they’ve got my trust, but they best not cross the line. I’ve got to say, I very doubt they will do, because they’re a good bunch.”
Fitness and diet have been key components of the work carried out behind the scenes since he arrived at the Leith club and, following the news that owner Sir Tom Farmer has been working towards writing off a major chunk of the club’s estimated £8m debt, he feels that both the future and his players are beginning to shape up nicely.
“We’ve seen the benefits from the players in the last four months. From a physical point of view they’ve made unbelievable strides – body fats, everything. You’re talking three or four percentage of body fat that they’ve lost. And, to be honest, it’s at the level it should have been in the first place.
“We don’t want them to be robots, we want them to be professional, and there’s a big difference. It’s not that you can’t do this, you can’t do that, it’s can you think about not having this and we’ll let you have that. We’re trying to work with them and the players see that.
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
“When I was a player, I liked chips and things I wasn’t supposed to be eating but it’s in moderation. If you’re watching what you’re eating, we all deserve sometimes where we can have a cake as a sweetener. That’s fine. It seems to have had the desired effect but you have to work with them. It’s very easy when you’re here to say ‘you can’t have this, you can’t have that’. And then the guard comes down and they start to rebel.
“But the fact that they’ve bought into everything we’ve tried to implement, they’re seeing the results for themselves now. I think you’ve got a lot of them looking in the mirror and liking what they’re seeing, whereas six months ago they wouldn’t have been liking what they were seeing.
“Now, they’re starting to look like professional footballers. Now, I hope they’re starting to behave like professional footballers. They’ve got a short career and they have to make the most of what they’ve got.”
They failed to do that against Falkirk last weekend, ending a run of results which included only one defeat in 11 matches. It failed to take them any closer to the top of the Championship table but Stubbs says they have to ignore what is going on elsewhere and stay focused on matters they can influence, starting with the home match against Alloa on Saturday, ahead of Christmas and New Year tussles with Rangers and Hearts.
How they fare in those games will help determine the mood ahead of the AGM, which will take place on 28 January.
“I’m aware of quite a bit of what’s going on but obviously at this moment in time there’s still a lot of talking to be done. I think in the meantime there will be a lot of people making their own assumptions, but over the next month or so and at the AGM everything will become a lot clearer.
“Tom’s been a fantastic owner for us and what he’s got in mind with the board and with the plan Leeann’s putting together, I think everybody will be really happy with the final outcome.
“It’s brilliant news, the fact that we’ve got the opportunity of potentially wiping the whole of the debt clear.”
The off-field plans could enhance his budget for improving the squad in January but he knows that what happens on the pitch up until then impacts on business matters and the psyche of the support.
“When results are going well then you don’t worry about what’s going on but, suddenly, if you have one or two results which don’t go your way then is that a hindrance?
“We’re the ones that dictate results. If we can do our part then the rest will fall into place. The next step is trying to get the team back into the Premiership. I think we would be the envy of most clubs then, because a lot of clubs will not be in the position we could find ourselves in.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS