A sense of collective bullishness shone through at Hibs’ annual general meeting last night, with chief executive Leeann Dempster and head coach Alan Stubbs claiming that the club are not entertaining the prospect of a third season in the Championship.
Renowned for varying levels of acrimony in recent years, last night’s gathering of around 250 shareholders in Easter Road’s Famous Five Stand was a refreshingly harmonious affair. Chairman Rod Petrie, so often the subject of fans’ ire in the past, was in jovial mood and was generally well-received. This relative serenity, of course, is largely down to the upturn in fortunes of the team since the arrival of Stubbs and Dempster in the wake of relegation from the Premiership 18 months ago.
We would take it if we go up through the play-offs but we want to do it in style and go up as championsAlan Stubbs
Hibs are locked in a compelling two-horse race for the Championship title with Rangers, and Dempster insisted that she doesn’t envisage her club being in the second tier next season.
Speaking to the floor, she said: “I’m sure someone will ask me what happens if we don’t get promoted? Are we going to be able to keep our players, how much money are we going to have, what’s going to happen? I’d like to pre-empt that question. This is not to say we don’t plan for every eventuality, but we are not planning not to get promoted this season. We’re planning for promotion and that is uppermost in our minds. That is the driving force behind every single thing that we do.”
Stubbs was also in confident mood when he warned Rangers that Hibs “are not going away” and that they intend to “go up as champions”.
“If we finish the season as strongly as we are playing now, we’ve got a fantastic opportunity of achieving our ultimate aim of promotion,” said the head coach. “There’s no point in denying the fact we want to go up as champions. We will obviously take it if we go up through the play-offs, but we want to do it in style and go up as champions. It’s going to be tough because Rangers are strong, but personally I don’t feel there’s a lot between us. The games have shown that, and, although I try and keep everything in check, I’m actually quite excited about it [the title race]. We’re chasing, and we’re chasing very hard. Anyone can deny it all they like, but we’re there and we’re not going away. Hopefully, when I speak to you next year, we’ll be back in the Premiership.”
Dempster, at the core of Hibs’ resurgence since relegation, took the opportunity to assure supporters that she is committed to the club for the long haul. “I was at Motherwell for six years and it was a real labour of love for me,” she said.
“It was a club I had no previous association with when I went in there. But, oh my word, I had an association with it when I left, and I feel the same way about this club now.
“I’ve started something and I don’t anticipate leaving. I like living in Scotland. Unless I got run over by a bus, I can assure you I have no inclination to leave this club. I’m genuinely loving every single minute of being here.”