SOMETIMES, when you throw a football manager a curveball of a question at a press conference, they will cut and run and do anything other address the subject matter.
Yet asked about the worst time of his life, Hibs’ manager Alan Stubbs spoke directly, honestly and with feeling about the testicular cancer that has now afflicted Jonas Gutierrez of Newcastle United and Argentina.
It was back in 1999 that a routine drug test after the Scottish Cup Final revealed that the then Celtic player had testicular cancer. Stubbs beat the disease twice before resuming his career with Everton.
“We have made giant strides since I was diagnosed with testicular cancer,” said Stubbs.
“If you are going to get cancer then testicular cancer is the one you want because of the high success rate.
“There is a 94 per cent success rate and if anybody gave you those odds in whatever battle you were facing you would grab it with both hands.
“Jonas Gutierrez will be the same and he will be thinking of the worst which is a natural reaction for anyone.
“The diagnosis will take you to dark places and you do have the mindset that you think you are going to die.
“It gives you a real vulnerability and you do think ‘what if’? When you are by yourself you do think ‘is this the end’?
“When you feel a different pain you imagine it (the cancer) to be somewhere else.
“These are all the type of things you go through but Gutierrez will have the best care and he needs his family to stay close around him and he needs to stay strong.
“If the diagnosis is good then the outcome will be positive for Gutierrez. Hopefully they will have found out quick enough and it won’t be long before we see Gutierrez back on the pitch fighting fit.
“He looks like a tough character and a determined guy. He gives you the impression that you can kick him on the pitch but he will get up and keep coming back at you.
“If he has that same determination and belief about him with regards to the illness then I have no doubt he will beat it.”
Stubbs has also been counselling Jordan Moore, the young Dundee United player who was diagnosed with skin cancer earlier this year.
“The boy is going through such a tough time at the moment,” said Stubbs.
“We had a chat and it was good for him psychologically just to bounce off someone and speak about things.
“From that point of view he will be fine. However he is having to deal with a lot at such a young age.”
Stubbs’ wise words put the overblown world of football into context, but he was nevertheless happy to talk about his team’s visit to Dumfries today to play Queen of the South.
Palmerston Park’s 4G plastic surface will not be used as an excuse by Stubbs should Hibs not get a result there today.
“I am not a fan but we’ve got to deal with it,” said Stubbs.
“I know what I preferred to play on as a player but we’ve got to deal with it.
“I watched Queen of the South in their first game against Livingston and the pitch looks great. It’s a new surface, a much better surface than Alloa, so we’re not using the surface whatsoever in our mindset.
“We are going there and we need to be better than Queen of the South in all areas.”
One area in which Hibs must improve is their defence which has leaked at least one goal in every league match this season, as Jordon Forster is acutely aware.
“As a defender you get judged on keeping goals out rather than scoring at the other end,” said Forster. “It’s something we need to work on as a team probably more than as a back four. I think we have been too easy to play against in certain matches but we’re scoring goals right now so we’ll take the good with the bad and hopefully we can tighten up at the other end and continue to score goals.”
The fightback and late winner against Cowdenbeath last weekend can be just a little too exciting for the players, according to Forster.
He said: “People might say you’re conceding goals and you should be doing this or that, which is fair enough, but it’s showing different from last season, when we might have lost a couple of goals and gone into our shells and not played, whereas this season we have fought back and put in some decent performances.
“Some of the fans must go away from Easter Road sometimes still with their hearts in their mouths. It’s exciting for the fans, but for the players we just want to tighten up at our end and continue to score goals at their end.
“It’s something we have been working on this week in training and we want to put it into place in the next three games.”
After Queen of the South today, Hibs visit Ross County on League Cup duty at the other end of the country on Tuesday, which will be Forster’s 21st birthday, before the trip to Ibrox next weekend.
Forster is delighted that his mate and colleague Paul Hanlon is back in the side: “Paul’s a very good player who has helped me in my early career so far. It’s been a boost for everyone getting Paul back. He’s a good lad and he’s brought a bit of a lift around the place seeing him back training and playing.”