ALAN Stubbs was playing down the link with Wigan Athletic even before news emerged yesterday evening that Gary Caldwell had been installed as the new manager of the English Championship side.
Looking ahead to tonight’s important league match at Dumbarton, where his team need to halt the run of losing results, the Hibs manager maintained he was still fully focused on helping the Leith side achieve something but he did admit to being flattered by the speculation.
“It came as a surprise to me, I didn’t know anything about it until someone texted me about it,” he said of the report claiming he was one of those being considered as a replacement for the sacked Malky Mackay. “If anything, I’ve been linked with it because of what we have inherited and what we have put in place up to this point. We have done some good things, and if people want to take note of that then there’s nothing I can do to stop them. It is always nice to get recognition. I don’t know anyone, in any line of business, who doesn’t like recognition. If they say they don’t, they are lying. It is the same for me.
“I have more important things to concentrate on at the moment, such as the game against Dumbarton. There’s nothing I can do to stop speculation about myself or my players, but I’ve come here with a big opportunity to try and achieve something and my focus is on doing that. I have a job to do at Hibs and I fully intend to see it through.
“I have made a lot of changes, but we haven’t necessarily achieved anything to show for those changes. I think it is right that I look to cement what we have done here. We are in a position where we can achieve what we set out to at the start of the season, which was to secure a play-off place. Another of the objectives was to do well in one of the cup competitions. At this moment in time, we’re on course for that.”
A second-place finish had been looking more likely as Rangers stuttered and Hibs racked up a run of 13 games without defeat on Championship duty but after losing to Stuart McCall’s reinvigorated Ibrox side at the end of last month, Stubbs’ men have gone on to drop nine points out of nine, forcing them to glance over their shoulder at both Falkirk and Queen of the South as they battle for their spot in the play-off process and the chance to return to the top flight.
I think it is right that I look to cement what we have done here.Alan Stubbs
The third of those defeats was at the hands of Queen of the South on Saturday, in a lacklustre performance that drew wide criticism for a lack of effort and grit. After that game Stubbs stated that it was up to the players to show the necessary spirit and with the capital derby coming hot on the heels of tonight’s trip to Dumbarton, followed by another key head to head with Falkirk, he reiterated that. “I have spoken to the players and it was all about the final push towards the end of the season. Over the last few weeks we’ve had some disappointing results. It’s up to the players to get back to where they were before then. They need to keep believing in what they have done to get themselves here.
“Football is a game of small margins. In the Raith game we have played well but didn’t get out of the game what we deserved. I didn’t think there was a huge amount in the Rangers game and it was the same against Queen of the South. There was nothing in that game. They had one opportunity and they’ve managed to capitalise on that but we didn’t do enough without the ball in those games to sway the result in our favour. We need to be better as a team without the ball and that’s what we have spoken about.”
There was disquiet in the stands on Saturday and on the back of several disappointing seasons, which culminated in relegation last term, the fear is that another one could end in a whimper. But Stubbs remains positive. “Sometimes when you lose games there are things labelled at you which aren’t necessarily true, but you have to take it. You need to take the rough with the smooth,” he said. “We haven’t played poorly, we just haven’t done enough and that’s the difference. It’s not a crisis in form. When you are playing poorly then you can look at form and confidence. But the confidence is still good, form is still good but we need to pull out that little bit extra which is needed for the run-in.
“I fully trust every single member of my team and if people question us then that’s fine. But if someone was to ever question the mentality, that would be like a red rag to a bull for me because I just love proving people wrong. That’s the way the players need to respond. When you do something about it then you can always have a little smile on your face, a little smirk which says you proved them wrong.”
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