NEW Hibernian head coach Alan Stubbs last night declared himself “happier” as he closed in on recruiting an assistant and making new signings.
The former Celtic and Everton defender will make his Hibs debut in the dugout this afternoon when he takes his threadbare squad to face Lowland League outfit Vale of Leithen.
As he helped to launch the club’s controversial new kit yesterday, the 42-year-old insisted a No 2, understood to be ex-Everton youth coach Andy Holden, could even be in place by the time the Easter Road outfit travel to Innerleithen.
Hibs were also working yesterday on receiving clearance from the SFA to field “one or two” trialists in the friendly, while chief executive Leeann Dempster and head of football operations George Craig continue to work hard with Stubbs in identifying and negotiating with transfer targets.
The new Hibs boss claimed frustration had not entered his mindset, despite seeing all the club’s competitors in next season’s intriguing Championship, including promotion rivals Rangers and Hearts, making signings.
However, with new faces said to be “very close”, Stubbs is adamant he will stay patient to land the right players instead of being hurried into adding “numbers” to his stripped-back pool.
He said: “We are very close, closer than we have been in the last week or so. I’m happier about the situation and that tells you we’re very close. That’s in terms of staff and players.
“We’re into the nitty gritty now. We’ve made good progress on the assistant and we’re close, very close. I’d like to say more. It could be next week, it could be closer than that, we’ll see what happens.
“Yes, I want players to be here, but I’m not going to rush into making mistakes. It would have been very easy for me to bring in ten players, but they wouldn’t necessarily be the right players I wanted to bring in.
“I will always err on the side of quality rather than quantity. And if that means bringing in one quality player instead of two or three numbers then I’ll bring in the quality because I know what we’re going to get from that.”
Meanwhile, defender Paul Hanlon has described his exasperation at seeing the club he supported as a boy succumb to relegation without being able to aid the cause for a second time.
On the last occasion Hibs were demoted, in 1998, Hanlon was a wide-eyed eight-year-old who gazed on from the crowd, then shrugged off the bitter disappointment by going out to play. Six weeks ago, he instead felt the weight of the club’s woes on his shoulders as he watched on helplessly because of a knee cartilage injury that kept him sidelined for the last ten weeks of the campaign.
He said: “I remember going to the game with my dad when we went down the last time. I was only eight and I was absolutely devastated. But it’s completely different now when you’re a player. It’s massive. As an eight-year-old kid you just get on with it and go out and play in the streets again and you’re fine. Now, it’s tough. We’ve had all summer to think about it and now we’re ready to go again.
“It was frustrating at the end of last season after getting injured, then what came after that. It was horrible sitting up in the stand. The team’s not winning and you’re wishing you could be out there to help. What happened was devastating to watch, especially being powerless.”