HIBERNIAN head coach Alan Stubbs has indicated that having Danny Handling available for next weekend’s Edinburgh derby against Hearts influenced the club’s decision not to contest his controversial red card.
After netting the equaliser in Tuesday’s Petrofac Training Cup first-round clash at Rangers, and with the score at 1-1, the striker was shown a straight red card by referee John Beaton in the 79th minute for bringing down David Templeton.
That decision proved to be a turning point in the game with Nicky Law going on to score in extra-time to give Ally McCoist’s side victory.
The Easter Road outfit received confirmation from the Scottish FA that the 20-year-old is suspended for tomorrow’s Championship curtain raiser at home to Livingston and the opening round of next season’s Petrofac Training Cup – should Hibs remain outside the Premiership.
Had Hibs opted to fight the red card, a hearing would likely have taken place next week. The club were well aware that an unsuccessful appeal would have led to Handling being declared ineligible for the first Edinburgh derby of the season on 17 August.
“I felt as though it was a harsh decision but we all know within the letter of the law that there will be some sort of reason why the referee thinks it’s a red card,” said former Celtic defender Stubbs.
“He misses Saturday’s game and next season’s Petrofac Training Cup game. I’m not saying we would have done, but if it was two straight games on the bounce then it might have been a different conversation.
“In my mind I’m focusing on Saturday’s game, I’m not even focusing on the Hearts game at this moment in time.
“We’ve got other players that can come in and do a job and my main focus is Saturday against Livingston and then after that we will start to concentrate on the Hearts match.”
Tuesday’s performance only served to reinforce Stubbs’ view that he inherited a squad that was bereft of belief, and not quality, this summer. Collectively, their confidence had taken a battering following May’s disastrous relegation from the Premiership following a two-legged play-off loss to Hamilton.
A much-expected overhaul of the playing pool has not materialised, with Stubbs bringing in goalkeeper Mark Oxley, defender David Gray, midfielder Scott Allan and striker Farid El Alagui to replace some of the 15 players who departed during the summer.
Stubbs reckons all the squad needs is some tender loving care.
“I will be honest in saying that I have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the squad,” he added.
“It’s been a really nice surprise. I have been left with some good players that just needed picking up. If you have confident players, you get confident performances. If you get players that are suffering from a lack of confidence, it effects the game massively and before you know it – it can spread through the team. Then you have a team that sometimes doesn’t know the woods from the trees.
“We all like an arm around our shoulder, we all liked to be loved. That’s why we’ve got wives or girlfriends because more often than not they tell us. But if it needs me to tell one of the players that I love him, then I’ll tell him I love him. If it means them getting me the results on a Saturday I’ll tell them what they want.”
Stubbs admits he wants the players to feel as though they can approach him. He explained: “In my style of management I want the players to be able to knock on my door if it’s closed. If it’s open I want them to be able to walk straight in. I want them to be able to express something and if it’s nonsense them I’ll tell them.”
The thought of playing at home last season is likely to have been an unappealing prospect for the team after collecting only four league wins at Easter Road and being subjected to fierce criticism from their own fans.
But Stubbs is adamant that Hibs can build the foundations for a successful campaign.
Stubbs added: “I’m not going to be judged on last season, I’m going to be judged on this season. I fully expect us to be a completely different force to what we were then.
“I know for a fact that the players are really looking forward to playing at Easter Road on Saturday. We have to show a real belief, a desire and a courage to do exactly what we did at Ibrox. If they do that then they will win a lot more games than what they lose.”
John McGlynn will be in the opposing dugout tomorrow but it will not be the first time that Stubbs has come face-to-face with the Livingston manager. He added: “I know John, he spoke on our Pro-Licence course before and he is a really nice guy. He’s very astute and will have a team here looking for a result.
“It will be a different challenge from what we faced on Tuesday against Rangers. We’re going to get teams who will come to Easter Road and try to sit in and make it difficult for us and we’ll have others who come and try to express themselves and really take it to us.”