Alan Stubbs and Mark Warburton’s so-called war of words is more pantomime than serious fall-out, according to Hibernian first-team coach John Doolan
Doolan faced the media yesterday before tonight’s Championship fixture with Livingston and cynics might venture that Hibs manager Stubbs’ absence was to avoid the risk of the slanging match with Warburton developing further.
The Rangers manager has taken firm exception to Stubbs’ contention that managing the Ibrox side is “easier” because of the greater financial backing. And Warburton again this week urged Stubbs to mind his own business – accusing him of “picking numbers out of the sky” when pondering the size of Rangers’ budget compared to Hibs.
Doolan smiled when asked about the verbal spat yesterday, sending the warring pair up as “the Chuckle brothers” of Scottish football.
“There’s an element of pantomime to it all,” said Doolan. “It’s a bit of ‘you to me’ – like the Chuckle Brothers.
“I just stay away from it. That’s between the Rangers manager and our gaffer so I’ll let those two crack on with it. I don’t think there’s an issue between the two management teams from what I’ve seen,” he added.
“After the last game at Easter Road we all sat in the room afterwards. I sat on the same sofa as them and had a chat with Mark and Jim [Stewart], the goalkeeping coach, and everyone was fine.
“There was a glass of wine shared,” he added, with reference to the post-match gathering following Hibs’ 2-1 win at the start of this month. “It’s good, we came in, shook hands and just chatted about the game, like we did at the start of the season after the cup-tie. They were honest in their assessment of it and we were honest in ours.
“To be honest I’d love to play Rangers every day because they are really good games to play. I’m sure the fans would say the same thing. Everyone gets up for these games and it’s a good spectacle so it’s good for Scottish football.
“I think it’s just there’s an edge when you’ve got two massive clubs competing for the same thing so you’re always going to get that little bit of friction sometimes.”
It is indicative of the exciting nature of the title race that even when they are not playing Rangers, Hibs’ Ibrox rivals cannot be ignored.
Earlier this season Hibs’ hopes of challenging Rangers at the top were all but written off. But now, after a 13-match unbeaten run, they can draw to within two points of the leaders with a win at home in a rescheduled fixture against Livingston, albeit having played a game more.
Doolan considered the question of whether the pressure would then be on Rangers, who were once nine points clear of their nearest challengers.
“It depends how you look at it,” he said. “If they are supposedly the bigger club, then I suppose so, yes.
“We just want to win the next game,” he added. “It’s a simple as that. And then we will look forward to Saturday. If that brings us two points closer to Rangers then great.”
Hibs will be without Dominque Malonga, who is on international duty with the Democratic Republic of Congo. But they are relieved his on-fire strike partner Jason Cummings emerged unscathed from Scotland under-21 duty last Friday. The forward scored for the eighth game in succession as Scotland were held 2-2 by Ukraine in Paisley.
Paul Hanlon, who recently made his 250th appearance for Hibs, believes comparisons can now be drawn between Cummings and Leigh Griffiths, who was such a fine goalscorer at Easter Road while he was on loan from Wolves. Slightly alarmingly, Hanlon has even branded Cummings as more off-the-wall than Griffiths.
“Leigh came across more to people on the outside as being a daft boy, but when he was in the club he was quite quiet,” he said. “He wasn’t too loud in the changing room, he just got about his business.
“He did his training on the pitch and just got himself up the road. But Jason’s more daft. The way he talks and the way he is, every day. I don’t know how to explain it, but I would just say he’s worse than what Leigh was. He keeps the dressing room buzzing and bubbly every day. There’s always a laugh when he’s around. He’s a big character and a big player for us as well.”
Helpfully for a centre-half, Hanlon is a calmer presence. He is enjoying his best season for Hibs. Though his contract expires at the end of this season, he is not overly concerned about tying up his future, preferring instead to concentrate on winning the league.
“It’s not something I’m pushing,” he said. “I’m quite relaxed about it. I was delighted to get to the 250 mark and it’s something I’m really proud of. But I would be even more proud if this club got back to the Premiership.”