Hibs boss Alan Stubbs eyes ‘hell of a week’ to end season

Hibs coach Alan Stubbs poses with Dundee United boss Mixu Paatelainen Picture: SNS

Hibs coach Alan Stubbs poses with Dundee United boss Mixu Paatelainen Picture: SNS

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If failure has obvious consequences for Hibs at Hampden tomorrow, success will also bring a set of circumstances which some could perceive in a negative light for the Easter Road club.

The prospect of having to play eight games in just 25 days next month would confront Alan Stubbs and his players if they can overcome Dundee United and reach the Scottish Cup final on 21 May.

In the event of Hibs also progressing to the Premiership play-off final, the dates for that two-legged assignment would be changed to 17 and 25 May. If they do so after finishing third in the Championship, the position they currently occupy, that would entail the two extra play-off games which would add up to that congested schedule.

Stubbs, understandably, refuses to see a downside to such a scenario as he plots the twin target of ending Hibs’ 114-year Scottish Cup hoodoo and restoring them to the top flight of Scottish football.

“It could be an unbelievable week at the end of the season, couldn’t it?” said Stubbs with a smile. “That’s what you are in this business for.

“When you look at it, is that not excitement? Could that not be one hell of a week? It all depends whether your glass is half full or half empty. I know which mine is.

“You will always get the doom-and-gloomers about it. But that’s why I don’t have any around me.

“We know we are in the play-offs now. That’s a fact. Ideally,
we want to finish in second place. But if that doesn’t happen it’s not the end of the world – it’s two more games.

“I just don’t see how two more games would drastically affect our chance of getting promotion.

“There is no concrete evidence to say finishing second gives you a 50 per cent chance, or whatever, of achieving promotion. The play-offs haven’t been going for long enough to see a trend.”

Stubbs is also dismissive of suggestions tomorrow’s semi-final is of secondary importance to both his own promotion-chasing side and Mixu Paatelainen’s relegation-threatened United.

“At 12.15pm on Saturday, neither club will have bigger priorities,” insisted Stubbs. “Because Saturday will be the most important thing.

“Promotion is obviously our biggest factor this season and Mixu’s will be trying to stay in the Premiership. So we have obviously got other priorities.

“But the Scottish Cup becomes our number one priority on Saturday. I don’t think you can look at in any other way, shape or form.

“Going into this, you can’t prioritise by saying ‘Oh, we’ve got a league game next week’ or ‘This is just another game, if we win, we win – if we don’t, we don’t.’ You can’t have that mindset.

“You want to win every game, whether it is league or cup. Otherwise, I’m afraid, you shouldn’t be doing this job.”

With just two wins in their last 11 games in all competitions, a sequence which included defeat in last month’s League Cup final, questions are yet again being asked of Hibs’ mental strength and capacity to win when it matters most. The uncomplimentary phrase ‘Hibsed it’ has even entered the Scottish football lexicon in recent weeks.

“I’m aware of that,” admitted Stubbs. “I think you always want to try and prove people wrong. In every walk of life you want to do that.

“I can understand why it is being said but if we won the Scottish Cup my first thought wouldn’t be to go around all the doubters individually. I’d be in the crowd with everybody celebrating!

“People have the right to say what they want or what they see, I can’t hang onto everybody’s word and take it personally as if it’s me. The best way to answer it is to do something about it.

“Then, at the end of it when you have done it, you don’t have to say anything, you can just look at that person and smile. I think that’s the best way to answer it.

“Have we been at the levels of earlier in the season? The answer would be no. There have been certain elements that contributed to that but they are what they are. We need to get on with it.

“Yes, I’d like us to be in better form, but we’ve got another four or five weeks left. If are not in good form and it suddenly clicks for the last four weeks of the season, then that is the most important time for it to kick in.”

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