HIBS manager Alan Stubbs has revealed that the club have had to adopt a siege mentality as they try to repel the negativity that he believes surrounds the Easter Road outfit.
Three wins in their first nine Championship fixtures leave them 14 points adrift of city rivals and current league leaders Hearts and the criticism dumped on them by disgruntled supporters, who are still reeling from their drop into the game’s second tier and fear they may be tethered there for another season if form does not improve soon, has already provoked a reaction from chief executive Leeann Dempster, who this week visited a fans’ forum online to warn that the negativity is proving counter-productive.
Looking ahead to this weekend’s trip to Livingston, hoping that they can make it two wins out of two against John McGlynn’s men, Stubbs says that, as well as getting used to the fresh challenge set by the Championship, everyone at the club has had to toughen up mentally to prevent any negativity permeating their thinking.
“We’ve got to have that siege mentality because you cannot affect people’s perception about what you are trying to do. They will say what they want to say. But sometimes that is not a fair reflection of what is going on at the club. We will keep working towards what we set out at the start of the season – to finish in a position which gives us a chance to go up.
“Since I came here, although we might have had setbacks, we have never had a negative week. We can only control what happens in this environment and this is a positive and vibrant place. I don’t want anyone coming into this building not enjoying what they do – win, lose or draw. Everything we do is geared towards one thing: success. Therefore, there is no room for negativity.
“I don’t know of a club in the world that doesn’t encounter difficult situations from time to time, but it’s what you do about it. If anything, you can become stronger. That is what I’m emphasising to the players. People can say what they want about us but we, as a group, will become stronger.”
Stopping short of criticising the fans himself, the man who was appointed in the summer said he could understand his boss’s desire to get everyone on board.
“I can see why Leanne said that. You can’t criticise someone for being honest. It is an opinion and you can’t criticise someone for having an opinion. We all need to pull in the same direction and we all have the same ambitions, targets and aspirations. That is where we are. But we could have won eight games and lost one and there would still be someone saying something about the game we lost, that’s the world we are in. You can’t please everybody, unfortunately, but as long as we believe that what we are doing is right, then we are on the right lines.”
Too long in the tooth to be broken by barbs from the stands or on forums, Stubbs says he would prefer greater positivity but says he would rather absorb the wrath than have his players distracted by it.
“That’s the job I’m in and if that means me taking the criticism away from the players then I will do it every minute, every hour, every day of the week. I’m not going to run away from it. It’s easy to run away from something if you don’t believe in it but if you believe in something then you don’t run away.”
That does not mean he is content to settle for the hotch-potch of wins, draws and defeats which have punctuated the first quarter of the league campaign. He is striving for a more consistent delivery of victories but insists that he does not think the team is too far from achieving that goal.
“I expect to win every game, so, from that point of view, it has not gone the way I wanted. I set myself and the players the highest standards. If I don’t, then what’s the point of coming to work? I know what I want to do, I know what I want to achieve. Absolutely nothing will derail me.
“I think we’re very close, but the hardest thing in football is putting the ball in the back of the net. I think it would change if we were to get the first goal more often than not, because then the opposition have got to come and try to score. Well, you would think so!”
That comment alludes to his frustration over the way many opposing teams have set out their stall so far this season.
“When it does stay at 0-0 it gives them something to hang on to. That’s not a criticism of other teams but it wouldn’t be me because, whether we are home or away, I want to go and try to win every game. That’s my philosophy. What is the point in working all week not to try to win. It does disappoint me that the players have not got the rewards and, when that happens, you do feel for them because we have dominated games.”