BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Hibernian head coach Alan Stubbs used to walk into Easter Road in his Celtic tracksuit knowing that it would require an almighty effort to emerge with three points to take back along the M8.
After years of underwhelming, and occasionally downright disastrous, showings under Colin Calderwood, Pat Fenlon and Terry Butcher, culminating in relegation in 2014, he believes that fear factor is finally returning to Leith.
The Hibees boast an unbeaten league record in the capital this season and have claimed two Premiership scalps on their way to the League Cup semi-final; Dundee United on Wednesday night and Aberdeen – who arrived in Edinburgh at the summit of the top-flight – in the previous round.
It could not be more different to the scene Stubbs surveyed when he succeeded Butcher, who had vowed to “bring back the bear pit” to Easter Road, before guiding them to relegation six months later.
Collecting his Championship manager of the month award at the club’s East Lothian training base yesterday, Stubbs said: “I think when I first came there was definitely that in their make-up, losing games, especially at home.
“That was not acceptable. Our home form wasn’t good enough and we wanted to turn Easter Road into a really tough place to come.
“I remember coming to Easter Road with Celtic and it was a difficult place to play. You know when as a player when you go away from home, and you go to a big club, when you walk in the door at the entrance and you’ll be in for a really tough game.
“I did not necessarily get that impression when I first came in and it has taken a bit of time. It was never going to happen instantly and the players have had to grow and deal with playing under the pressures of being at home.
“I felt it had just become a place where teams looked forward to coming – we have managed to change that. I think our home record now is very good.”
Stubbs, however, is acutely aware that his side “have achieved nothing yet” as he prepares to face St Mirren tomorrow afternoon.
His objective for this season will not be complete until Hibs are a Premiership side once again.
He continued: “We are doing okay at this moment in time, but we haven’t achieved anything.
“We are going along the process which will help us do something, and we are doing the right things, but we need to keep doing those things. Ultimately, we are still five points behind Rangers and we don’t want that to be any further behind after this weekend.
“I am happy with how they are doing at this moment in time and where they are – but I still think we’ll need to improve as the season goes on.”