ALAN Stubbs does not like looking back. There is no succour there but, more importantly, he has no sphere of influence there.
There has long been a sense that the past has haunted Hibernian, planting doubts and whipping up an almost self-fulfilling prophesy in big games. Stubbs is aware of that but he insists he sees no evidence of it in the current dressing room and he has witnessed dwindling evidence of it in the wider fanbase.
“I’ve never felt inferior. I can see where the question is coming from but since I came here, I’ve never sensed it. I’ve sensed that some fans thought about previous results – I’ve never sensed that they’ve felt inferior.”
Memories of past head-to-heads will be flaunted by the opposition fans, but Stubbs didn’t even watch that 5-1 final defeat by Hearts at the time and hasn’t seen it since.
“There would be no reason for me to look at what happened previously. I don’t live in the past. I try to affect the future. And we’re doing OK at that just now.
“In the [derby] games we’ve played, we’ve certainly competed,” says Stubbs of his time as Hibs gaffer. “Our head-to-heads are won one, lost one, drawn two. We haven’t played this season and Hearts have definitely strengthened – but so have we. We’re a better team.”
So far this term his Hibernian side have taken on three Premiership teams and won, they have progressed to the League Cup final and are still in contention for the Championship title, at best, and in a decent position to ensure a shot at promotion via the play-offs, at worst. Should today’s cup tie go their way, they will remain the only club with a realistic shot at a key domestic treble.
“Every successful club should be challenging on all fronts,” says Stubbs, “and I think our players are thriving on it. If we progress on Sunday, fantastic. If we don’t, it won’t be for the want of trying.”
With a squad possessed of even greater strength in depth following transfer manoeuverings, Stubbs doesn’t worry about the team spreading themselves too thinly. The league remains his primary focus but he sees progress in the cup competitions as a way to bolster that challenge rather than an unwanted distraction.
“It’s a nice distraction but for me and the players, it’s another chance to win a game of football, no matter what competition it’s in. They go into every game looking to win it and that’s the way it should be.
“People laughed when I said we were in three competitions and wanted to win them. Well, we’re a step closer to one now, and we want to still be in three come Sunday at 2.15. Saying anything different would send the wrong signals. I want this club to have a winning mentality.”
But it is Hearts who stand in their way this time. And it is the Scottish Cup. History tells us that both have proved stubborn foes. But Stubbs is more concerned with the players who will take the field today. He is complimentary about Hearts, saying he is not surprised at how well they have done in the top flight and insisting they have many attributes over and above their much-talked-about physicality, but he feels his men can prove a match.
“Robbie’s always said he was looking for top six and I felt they would comfortably achieve that. But I think we would’ve been top six, because of the group I’ve got.
“There’s also no substitute for winning games for players. Winning breeds winning. That’s how I want to change what’s happened in the past, and we are changing it.
“It’s two big clubs on Sunday who have certainly missed the derbies and we want to play our part in making sure we don’t miss many more of them by getting up.
“We are a Premiership club in the Championship, same as Rangers. We’re two clubs in the wrong division.
“And our priority is to get out of it. Our results against Premiership teams have highlighted that – we have a talented group of quality players and hopefully when we go up there wouldn’t need to be a major overhaul of the squad.”