WHEN Terry Butcher accepted the post of Hibernian manager a little more than a year ago, he admitted being taken aback by the insistence with which he was handed his principal mission: win the Scottish Cup.
Of course, that target was soon replaced by a far more serious one – simply surviving in the Scottish Premiership. Rather than inspire the side to lift the Scottish Cup for the first time since 1902, Butcher saw Hibs plunge into the second tier.
This is why Alan Stubbs was the one who was facing reporters yesterday as he prepared to become simply the latest Hibs manager to engage with the quest for the Scottish Cup.
“It was different for me, I was just told I had to win games,” smiled Stubbs, when informed of Butcher’s brief. “I’m quite happy with that!”
Hibs’ priority is indeed returning to the Premiership, but Stubbs is not running scared from a competition, even if it does pit his side against fellow Championship outfit Alloa, against whom the Edinburgh team lost on their last meeting in the league in August. He is welcoming the chance to avenge that 2-1 defeat back on an artificial pitch that he stresses is another psychological obsctacle Hibs simply have to get over if they are to prosper.
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
It was a costly afternoon for Stubbs’ side, who also lost striker Farid El Alagui with an Achilles tendon injury that might, or might not, have had something to do with the surface. Either way, he is out until next year.
“It is not my favourite choice of surface but it is there and we have to get on with it – it is not going to go away,” said Stubbs. “My main priority on Saturday is being in the hat for the next round. In every football game you run the risk of picking up injuries. The main thing for the football club is that we are in the next round.”
Hibs supporters will be cheered by the way Stubbs talked yesterday. He is certainly not spooked by Hibs’ record in the Scottish Cup, which, in recent times, is actually quite good. They have reached two finals in three years.
“Scottish Cup week does bring something different, it is a competition that quite a few of our boys will have been brought up dreaming about winning,” he said. “We enter the competition, like a lot of other clubs, aiming to get to a final. If you don’t enter with that thought then there is no point being in it.
“Of course we enter thinking we can win it,” he added. “There is no point not dreaming about reaching Hampden for a cup final. It sounds great and it will be a challenge, there are a lot of teams with that target.”
Stubbs has noted the draw, which threw up five all-Scottish Premiership ties. He is of the opinion that someone unlikely has the chance to taste Scottish Cup glory – why can’t it be Hibs? “We have played Premiership teams already this season and given it a good go,” he said. “On the day, you just never know. There are five games with Premiership clubs playing against each other, while Hearts play Celtic and Kilmarnock are against Rangers. There are a lot of big clashes which will see some good clubs eliminated.
“I’ve certainly heard about Hibs’ record in the Scottish Cup,” he continued. “But it’s got to change one day. They have hit the crossbar a few times but I can say for sure that it will change one day. When that day comes, I would love it to be while I am here. It would be fantastic to lead this club in a cup final. Not just for the players, it would be a dream for me.”
The defeat to Alloa earlier in the season is a reminder of the ‘bad old Hibs’, and, although they won 6-3 last week against Dumbarton, even in this high-scoring victory there was concern for the supporters. After Hibs raced to a 3-0 lead, the home side scored two at the start of the second-half for 3-2.
“If we are 3-0 up and there is complacency I will take that every week,” said Stubbs. “But the one thing we learned from last week is that if we are leading 3-0 I would like to win the game 3-0, at a minimum.”
Of course, any sort of victory is one to be cherished in a tournament Hibs fans have long been advised to approach with considerable caution.
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS