A manager who is too cocky in charge of a club that too often cocks up. A faction within Scottish football seems determined to perceive Alan Stubbs and Hibernian in such fashion.
Yet to Stubbs’ credit he sees such sniping as part of Scottish football’s rich tapestry. The Englishman says “pressure” does not exist when games such as tomorrow’s League Cup semi-final against St Johnstone at Tynecastle are concerned. The word for Stubbs is “excitement” and he is comfortable enough in his own skin to be self-deprecating about how excitable he can become. While broadcasting live in a gantry above the Cappielow stand for BT Sport during Rangers’ victory away to Morton the other night, a home supporter was heard to shout “Stubbs yer talking sh***”.
Yesterday, Stubbs volunteered a surprising comment on the incident when discussing the positivity he exudes regardless of the opposition for his Championship side. “We are going into a game against a team from a higher division. Do you want me to turn round and say: ‘It’s going to be difficult today. We’re underdogs. We’ve got no chance of winning’. I think sometimes that’s what people want me to say. I’m not going to say it. I am what I am. The guy the other night on the telly probably had some reason. I do talk a bit of sh**. I can’t disagree with him.”
Stubbs’ would disagree with those that had him saying his team were chasing a treble after he ruminated on the prospect last week, though. “I didn’t say we could win the treble, I said we were in three competitions. The headline said I was going to win it. Do you want me to turn round and say ‘we don’t really want to win two of them?’ If I said that, I’d be criticised. If I say we’re in three competitions, I get criticised. You can read the headline, but actually when you read into what exactly was said, it doesn’t necessarily represent the headline.
“Us and Celtic are the teams that are realistically in three competitions. Is that me being too confident? We are in three competitions. Fantastic. That means we are doing well. Whether we can win them is going to be so difficult. But we are in three competitions and because we are, we want to try and win them. If I said anything different … I can’t help people’s perceptions, how they want to see what I’ve said. It’s not me being big-headed or anything. I am what I am. We are in three competitions, like it or lump it.”
Stubbs said he has no fears about his team choking in pursuit of any trophy… even if there were suspicions of that in the manner they allowed a lead to slip in losing away to Rangers last month.
“When you have been there in big games you know they can go one way or another. I think the important thing is that we focus on making sure we perform. I have got no doubt whatsoever that we will. I fully trust the players. There were certain moments in the Ibrox game when we let it go away from us. We made a couple of errors. If we had gone in at half-time level it would have been very interesting. But, of course, we didn’t. You can’t say ‘if this’ and ‘if that’. But when we have gone there we have performed. We have played some big teams in this competition before now.”
Hibs will have what Stubbs considers a big name in their ranks following Anthony Stokes’ loan move from Celtic. The Easter Road manager “wouldn’t have a problem” starting the Irishman after his goal from the bench against St Mirren last week, though he recognises he has to use the striker carefully after a season on the sidelines. However, he believes he already has had an impact, on and off the field.
“When somebody of that quality, a marquee signing, walks into the dressing room he has the attention of all the players. They know how good a player he is. I think the signing has got everybody’s attention, not just the players in the dressing room or the fans. It is up there with one of the most significant transfers that we’ve had.”