In the days when it was claimed that a team which drank together won together it was the norm for Alan Stubbs and his Celtic team-mates to head out on the town.
But times have changed and as it’s no longer acceptable for professionals to paint the town red on a regular basis, the Hibs squad settled for peppering each other with paint pellets instead.
Making full use of the international break and the consequent fixtures lull, the management and squad headed out for a day of team bonding before they head into a flurry of six games in three weeks which could determine their chances of clawing back the 11-point gap between themselves and Championship leaders Rangers.
Tomorrow they face Dumbarton before coming up against their three nearest rivals – Falkirk, Raith Rovers and then Rangers. But there is a positive vibe around the club and that was only enhanced by the fun and games shared this week, according to the Hibs head coach, who took encouragement from the fact that he had not become the primary target when they went paintballing.
“I was all for it and one or two of them might have wanted to hit me more than others but my overalls were all clean! That’s not a bad sign!
“We have always had a really tight-knit group. As a coach or manager you can sometimes have a group that is not necessarily together but that’s not the case with this group. They get on really, really well, as individuals and as a group. We went to do something on Tuesday all together and then at night time we went for a meal and that tells you where we are as a club. You don’t win anything by not having a camaraderie off the pitch as well as on it.”
Stubbs says it is important that everyone feels like they are in it together.
“I think it’s important but it doesn’t always happen. Everybody went and they all had good fun. It was a good exercise for everybody. I do like to bring a family feel to everything and I will try to do one for players and wives but that probably won’t be paintballing. I don’t think some of the wives would appreciate being shot!
“But it wasn’t a late night, it was socialising together, not drinking and they were all away by 8:50pm. You have to be ultra professional now. In my time at Celtic, we were out every Tuesday but I’ve got to say that for that group of players and as a means of bringing us together on the pitch as well as off it, it was great, but the game has moved on and players are educated on having the right lifestyle. The parameters have changed.”
As well as offering a window for team bonding, the international break gave Hibs the opportunity to get more of their injured players back into first-team contention.
“Jamie [Insall], Fraser [Fyvie], Farid [El Alagui], Keats [James Keatings], Islam [Feruz], Jordon Forster…I’m delighted they are back in with the group but they now have to work their way back into the team, which is not going to be easy. The one thing I will have is the chance to potentially bring players in and out along the way.” With a crammed fixture list that could be key.