BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Hibs head coach Alan Stubbs insists heartbroken Liam Fontaine is big enough to bounce back from his Hampden hell.
The 30-year-old endured a roller-coaster League Cup final, levelling scores at 1-1 on the stroke of half-time with a crisp drive before his mistake handed Ross County their first ever major trophy in the dying embers.
The towering defender’s attempted clearance in the last minute trickled across the face of his own goal and allowed Alex Schalk to prod home from point-blank range.
Fontaine’s pain was plain to see on Monday when he posted a candid message on Twitter, describing the showpiece as one of the “best and worst” days of his life.
However, Stubbs has no doubts about the player’s mindset ahead of tonight’s trip north.
Stubbs said: “I think the message (on Twitter) was a measure of Liam as a person. I thought it was a bit of class, but that does not surprise whatsoever. It is not Liam’s personal fault we lost.
“I know he made a mistake but I, for one, and his teammates are not looking in Liam’s direction to point the finger.
“We had 90 minutes in the game to win it. You never want that to happen to anyone – I don’t want that to happen to one of my players and I would not want it to happen to one of the opposition players.
“It is not a memory you want any player to have. But he is big enough to move on. I am pretty sure it won’t affect him.
“In my time as manager of this football club he has been fantastic. What happened on Sunday does not affect my outlook on Liam in any way whatsoever.”
Meanwhile, Stubbs insists his side remain well on course for a successful season despite a notable wobble in recent weeks.
Three consecutive league defeats have seen Hibs effectively guarantee Rangers the Championship crown, while Sunday’s defeat saw one of their cup dreams go up in smoke.
Nevertheless, with Hibs still eyeing promotion through the playoffs and potentially three games away from ending their 114-year Scottish Cup hoodoo, Stubbs insists he would have taken this position at the start of the campaign.
He added: “We’ve done really well up to now. We’ve got to a major final, we’re in the quarter finals of the Scottish Cup. At the moment we’re sitting third in the league, but with our games in hand we can be second.
“I think if there was any manager sitting in this chair just now and they were offered this before a ball was kicked, they’d have snapped your hand off.
“There’s something decent in the making here, the club is on the right track again. That gives me optimism.”