The former Hibernian manager was a lynchpin in the Parkhead side that ended Rangers’ hopes of a 10th straight title in 1998. Stubbs believes Celtic’s winning ingredient then was a squad unity he believes was evident in the Ibrox set-up this season as they put paid to Celtic’s 10-in-a-row bid in thunderous fashion – and wholly absent from the vanquished champions.
And Stubbs’ maintains the impact of the club’s “biggest ever squad rebuild” set to be entrusted to Howe – expected to be confirmed in the next week – will be determined by his ability to recruit players on a permanent basis who actually seem to really care about the club. Too often this season these have appeared in short supply in Celtic colours as far as Stubbs is concerned.
“I think the mentality of players has changed now,” he said. “I don’t want to turn round and say that we were better than what they are now, but society has changed. The one thing we had when stopped 10 in-a-row was a really strong dressing room. There was quite a British core to it, and when you look across at what Steven [Gerrard] has done at Rangers, the predominant core of that group is British.
“They understand what was in front of them and what was needed, whereas with the foreign players, though they might give you that little bit of extra quality, they can sometimes lack in terms of that feeling of the club and being part of that. I look at the two teams now, and at Rangers there is a real togetherness, and everybody knows what is expected of them in terms of their jobs. I look at Celtic and I see individualism, and not a collective.
“You’ve got to be careful that you don’t bring in players that use the club as a springboard, and they buy into what you want to do. That is huge. When you have so many loan signings [as Celtic have had], it’s very difficult for them to really get a feel for the club, because, whether it’s for six months or a season, it doesn’t bring stability. It’s very easy when things are not going well for people to say ‘you know what, I can go back to my parent club.’ But when you’ve got a player there who’s there for a number of years, you have to buy into what is needed. I really don’t feel as if the foreign players, and I don’t want to put all the blame on them as that’s not right, but in terms of understanding what was at stake this season, if they did get it then it didn’t come across that they got it.
“The one thing you can be sure of, and this is where players let themselves down, is that some of these in six weeks’ time [under a new Celtic manager] will go from not looking interested and a shadow of themselves to [seeming] different players. I think a lot’s gone on behind the scenes at Celtic you might never know about that has contributed to what has gone on this season.”