BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
Alan Stubbs has refused to shy away from discussions over his future as Hibernian manager after being linked with interest from Reading, but is adamant he is in no hurry to achieve his ultimate goal of working at the ‘highest level possible.’
Just as being presented with the Championship manager of the month yesterday is viewed as reward for his team’s exploits on the pitch, the former Celtic and Everton defender is perfectly aware that speculation linking him with other jobs comes hand in hand with success.
Stubbs has adopted an open approach to coping with apparent interest in the likes of top scorer Jason Cummings, and insisted there would be no difference in his methods because the story had now shifted to focus on him instead.
With Reading reportedly placing the 44-year-old on a short-list to replace Steve Clarke, Hibs supporters will be concerned their side’s challenge to Rangers for the Championship title could falter should Stubbs be spirited away.
That was a prospect the Easter Road head coach addressed yesterday, maintaining he had not heard anything concrete surrounding Reading’s interest and claiming he remains focused on the ‘brilliant job’ he has in the capital.
However, although confessing he has plenty of work left to do, both at Hibs and as a manager, Stubbs was candid enough to acknowledge that he hopes his ambitions will be fulfilled elsewhere and in a timescale he was unwilling to predict.
“It literally is, as far as I’m concerned, speculation,” he said as he accepted his monthly accolade.
“It doesn’t bother me. If you aren’t doing well you don’t get linked with jobs. If you’re doing well you’ve got a better chance, or it will probably be more likely, to be linked with jobs. And that’s all it is.
“I don’t know where it’s come from. I haven’t heard anything, I would be the first to tell you, I’m not one to sit on the fence, but that’s it.
“If you weren’t being linked, it would mean results were poor. You can’t have one without the other. They more often than not go hand in hand.”
Stubbs’ message to his players when they have been linked with such interest has been to urge them to perform even better in the hope that even better options open up should they move on.
It is an attitude he admits he himself held as a player and one he revealed he still adheres to as a manager.
Asked how he coped with speculation as a player, he added: “It all depended who the team was. If it wasn’t really a good team I would try even harder because I’d want a better one!
“Is that the same as a manager? If you want to put it that way, yeah! It’s no different, I’ve got to say. As a player, you want to play at the highest level and at the best clubs that are available.
“I’m not going to lie, I want to manage at the top level. I want to manage as high as possible.
“But this is a brilliant job at the moment. I’m only just into it and, in management and coaching terms, it’s still relatively new.
“My main focus, and I know it’s boring, is with Hibs and is with Falkirk on Saturday.”
Stubbs’ willingness to kick around questions on the issue of his future contrast with Mark Warburton’s tetchy response to what the Rangers manager viewed as ‘disrespectful’ inquiries over his future at Ibrox following apparent interest from Fulham.
That difference in approach may be at the root of the tense spats that have blown up between the pair at various junctures this season as Hibs have sought to mount a title challenge and was clear yesterday
“I am what I am,” Stubbs went on. “I’ll give you a straight and honest answer. There is nothing to speak about because, as far as I am concerned, it’s just a link to a job. There is nothing concrete, I haven’t heard anything. I am purely focussed on doing my job, and I’m not another person. I am me.
“That means I don’t have to answer in this or that way, I just go about my job as normal, the way you should do. Speculation is speculation. Look, I was linked with another job last month and the month before; I’m here.
“No manager is at a club forever. When will I move? I can’t answer that. It’s a question I’d like to answer but one I can’t. I don’t know. Hey, I could be sacked in January!”