Alan Stubbs laments a very cruel football world

There was no hiding the disappointment on the faces of Hibs’ manager Alan Stubbs and captain David Gray after Alim Ozturk’s late equaliser had robbed the Easter Road side of three points.
Alim Ozturk celebrates his goal. Picture: Ian GeorgesonAlim Ozturk celebrates his goal. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Alim Ozturk celebrates his goal. Picture: Ian Georgeson

For the manager, the draw was hard to thole given the way his men played.

Stubbs said: “It’s obviously disappointing to lose it so late in the game but I thought we were outstanding from the first whistle to the last whistle. We had done so many good things in the game. I am proud of the players, proud of the performance.

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“We’ve taken one chance, we’ve created panic amongst their back four, and you’d always like another goal. You don’t always get what you want in football and it’s probably the same thing with the result. The lad will hit another 999 shots, and none of them will be on target. But it’s one of them where he’s hit a worldie and it’s flown in.”

Was he really saying it was a world-class goal? “It’s just one of them goals. The ball is moving all over the place, it’s dipped, it’s swerved, there was certainly no blame from my point of view towards (goalkeeper) Mark Oxley.”

Stubbs addressed the issue of perceived lack of motivation at Hibs: “It’s one of those things where when we win, we lose. I think it’s just the negativity around the place.

“I thought we were fantastic today. Their intelligence, how brave they were to get on the ball, I thought we took the game to them. I thought the desire, the work rate, the performance typified the group of players I’ve got.

“I’ve said all along that I think it will take a little time, but I think if anyone’s watched us over the last six weeks, they know where we’ll be in the last six weeks of the season.

“There’s a lot of ability in there and I know there’s been a little bit of mud-slinging early in the season about us not doing this and not doing that.

“But we’ve come into the season with the biggest transformation to try and deal with, and that’s not easy. From then to now, there’s a significant improvement in the way the team’s playing, and that’s all we can keep doing.

“When you take over from what’s happened, the biggest thing you have to win over is the fans. If they’re honest, and they are a very knowledgeable set of fans, they want to see results every week.

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“Fans can be very demanding. They want performances, they want results, they want 5-0 wins. But that’s the game we’re in and I’ve changed the philosophy of the way we play.

“I can’t be judged here about what’s gone on in the past, only on what I’m doing for the future. That’s all I ask, that’s all the players ask.

“Sometimes you can keep that hangover of what’s happened in the past rather than trying to affect the future. That’s what we’re trying to do.

“A lot of those players were written off last year, of those who have stayed and I’ve kept, you’d say they look different players. That’s a credit to them, not me. I’m here to help them, and try and give them a successful career and try and improve them as individuals.”

He would not be drawn on promotion hopes: “Ask me in February or March. Nothing was won today. There were a few celebrations at the end today as if something was won. I noticed that. We’ll see in March, April.”

A slip of the tongue was dealt with in his usual good humoured style, and Stubbs made his point well: “We’ve just played the champions today... sorry take that away, I never said that! We’ve just played one of the potential teams that are going to be there or thereabouts. We’ve got nothing to be afraid of.

“If there was any justice we would have beaten them today. But that’s football. It’s a very, very cruel world at times.

“It’s probably one of the harshest environments you can be in because you don’t always get what you deserve. Today I don’t think anyone can deny that.”

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Stubbs and referee Bobby Madden at one point exchanged words over a couple of debatable decisions at one point, but it was all good banter, eventually.

“I thought he controlled the game great, but I told him I wasn’t going to be buying him a drink after the game.”

For captain Gray, the loss of the equaliser felt like losing the game, but he, too, felt Hibs would take a lot of inspiration from their performance.

“Football can be quite cruel,” said Gray. “To lose a goal in the 92nd minute feels like a defeat but we’ve got to take a lot of positives from the game because I felt we were the better team and deserved the win.

“It was hard to take but we move onto the next one, we’re six games unbeaten and we’ve got something to build on. It’ll be an exciting week with the quarter-finals of the League Cup.

“We’re definitely going in the right direction.”

Like his manager, Gray felt the equaliser was one of those shots that could have gone anywhere.

Gray said: “It was one of those that nine times out of ten ends up in row Z, and we say thank you very much that’s the game finished.

“But credit to him, it was a great strike. I thought big Mark seemed to jump higher than the crossbar and it still came down underneath it. It was hard to take and the boys were down in the dressing room. But once you reflect on the game and think about how it went there were a lot of positives.

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“We were strong, fit, dominated the game especially in the first half but it was just one of those things.

Only one point from the two derbies so far is an unfair return, said Gray: “In the first derby we missed a penalty and that was a big turning point. But you need to bounce back from those things and the positives is we’re unbeaten in our last six and believe we’re still in it.

“Credit to Hearts they’re undefeated and top of the league for a reason, I’m sure they’ll be delighted to come away with a point and we’re disappointed to not take all three. That’s a positive to take for the rest of the season.”