ALAN STUBBS believes in a consistent approach. Whether against a team scrambling for points at the foot of the Championship table or playing host to those from the higher echelons of the Premiership, the Hibs mantra has remained pretty fixed. They go out to attack and play to their own strengths rather than get bogged down with worries about how to deal with the opponents’ virtues.
Having bettered three top-flight teams already this term and battled back from 2-0 down against Hearts in last weekend’s Scottish Cup tie to set up this Tuesday night’s replay in front of a sell-out crowd, there is evidence to suggest it has been a successful stance. Stubbs says that sticking to his guns shows that he has faith in his men to deliver and that confidence is being reflected back at him.
“I think with my team, because of the way we are just now, we obviously give the opposition the utmost respect but we don’t change for anybody. There may be situations in a game where we slightly tinker with things but to actually change things completely, no, that would be wrong to the group of players I have got,” says Stubbs, below.
“I think if there is a huge gulf in class then you would find that some managers will set up very defensively. They are very aware of the quality on show and they don’t want it to turn into a 5-0 or 6-0. But that’s not me. I never want my teams to just go out and defend for 90 minutes and keep the score down. I want them to go and have a go and if you are going to lose the game then go and lose it by trying to be positive. I don’t want my teams to lose a game after spending the majority of the game just trying to stay in it.
“I honestly don’t think there is a huge difference between the two teams. They are both doing very, very well and they have different styles but they have both done very well in terms of results this season.
“Hearts have not surprised me with what they have done this season, far from it. And my team have not surprised me in what they are doing just now.”
So far this season, as well as maintaining a real interest in a league title, Hibs have already secured one cup final slot and are still in contention for a quarter-final berth in another by playing Stubbs’ way. And the feeling of winning, certainly not losing, has been habit-forming, with only four defeats in 30 games and only one since August.
His Hibs side defied the doubters last Sunday. Against foes who have dominated them historically and at a ground which has served up few happy memories in recent years, his men were two goals down by half time against a team who are sitting third in the league above them. Stubbs believes the half-time score was an unfair reflection and always believed his men could play themselves back into the tie and, while extra time may have seen his side snatch it, he says he has no issue with the country’s most prestigious cup tournament indulging in replays, even if it does clog up the fixture list.
“I’m probably a big, old romantic when it comes to the cup competitions and I do like replays in the Scottish Cup and it’s the same with the FA Cup in England. I do like it and it keeps the history and tradition alive.”
There has been little romance for Hibs in this competition though. Spurned and jilted since 1902, Stubbs says he is fed up hearing about the past. He his unable to influence what went before him and even less inclined to answer for it. Which is why he doesn’t worry that as the lower league team, Hibs’ opportunity to progress this term has necessarily gone.
“I think this way it is a pat on the back for our fans to be able to bring Hearts back to Easter Road. We know it will be a close game and it will be tough for both teams, as Sunday showed. It is two different types of teams and I still think it is a really close one to call.
“But there is a real sense of belief sweeping right through the club and not just here with the players. From what I sense, I really do think the fans are proud of the team that is on the pitch right now and we have to keep asking them to keep backing the team. They have been magnificent and Tuesday is another chance for them to show the potential that is there.”