BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
If Alan Stubbs is in need of any pointers as to how to guide his Hibernian side through the hectic weeks that lie ahead, he need only delve into his own past as a player with Bolton Wanderers.
Stubbs has been criticised for claiming the Easter Road club can complete an unlikely treble this season but they continue to fight on three fronts. Their midweek triumph over city rivals Hearts keeps the Scottish Cup dream alive, whilst excitement is already building towards next month’s League Cup final against Ross County.
With this afternoon’s encounter with Alloa Athletic crucial in their bid to maintain a challenge to Rangers for the Championship title, Stubbs is aware he has a difficult juggling act to complete to ensure his players remain focused on each target.
It is an experience he went through making a name for himself as a a rugged defender south of the border. On that occasion, in season 1994-95, Bolton marched through to the Coca-Cola Cup final to meet Liverpool, seeing off Premiership opponents Ipswich Town, West Ham United and Norwich City in a run that draws parallels with Hibs’ sequence of top-flight scalps this term.
Though they lost the Wembley final 2-1 to Liverpool in April ’95, Bruce Rioch’s team proved able to cope with the pressure that then built towards their promotion play-off final against Reading the next month when they roared back from two goals down to prevail 4-3 in extra-time to reach the Premiership.
“In the cup game, we weren’t favourites,” he recalled. “There wasn’t any pressure on us whatsoever.
“But there are similarities to this team. We had a lot of young players with a lot of talk around them, with a bit of experience in there too.
“We also had a bit of joy against Premiership teams and on the day we weren’t a million miles away from beating Liverpool.
“That gave us a bit of impetus to go on and make sure that we got our main priority which was promotion. There are similarities to what we are doing here now.
“We are really getting towards that stage now where we have to step up to the plate. We have put all the hard work in, we just need to see the season out.”
Should Stubbs successfully guide Hibs to any one of the three trophies they are still seeking, he is sure to build an even stronger reputation for himself than he already has done in the 20 months he has had in first-team management.
That is something he is fully aware of, but he is also clear that so far all he has garnered is praise.
“It’s not as if I have to rush into things,” he added. “I can pick and choose and be comfortable about what my next career move will be, somewhere along the line.
“Winning things is always a good indication – and I haven’t won anything. All I’ve won is accolades. But winning cups or leagues is the biggest accolade you can get.
“All we’ve done so far is put the club along the right path – they’re not there yet, but hopefully we put them back in a league they should be in.”