BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Alan Stubbs has expressed his displeasure at the SPFL’s decision to schedule the Premiership playoff finale either side of the Scottish Cup final between Hibernian and Rangers.
However, the Easter Road head coach insists it is a problem he is desperate to have next month.
As it stands, the two-legged playoff final will take place on Thursday, May 19 and Sunday, May 22 – the day after the Scottish Cup final.
However, if Hibs are in both, those dates will be adjusted to to Tuesday, May 17 and Wednesday, May 25, interrupting the build-up and immediate aftermath of the capital club’s date with destiny at Hampden.
Dubbing himself “a traditionalist”, Stubbs firmly believes the Scottish Cup should be the climax of the campaign.
Nevertheless, Stubbs is acutely aware that it will only be an issue for his side if they navigate the playoffs successfully to tee up a two legged tie against the club that finishes 11th in the Premiership.
He said: “’If a Championship team is in the latter stages of the play-offs, then to stick a Scottish Cup Final in the middle of it – I think that’s the one thing that I think probably should be up for discussion.
“Whether you maybe look at changing the play-off dates, having a ‘Plan B’ if a Championship team gets to the play-off final and the Cup final – so you don’t sandwich this big Cup final in between two other games.
“It isn’t ideal but the way we look at it, if we get to that stage, it could be an unbelievable week. Some people will turn around and say it could be a really bad week – they’re right, too.
“But it would be a good problem to have. It would be a problem we have because we will have given ourselves that opportunity.”
Hibs host Queen of the South tomorrow level on points with Falkirk in second place, but with the Bairns, who face Morton, boasting a superior goal difference of three. It sets up a thrilling finale for the runners-up spot.
But regardless of where his side finish, Stubbs is adamant they can still secure promotion. And he is astonished that anyone would dub Hibs’ season a disappointment, despite the capital club seeing Rangers claim the Championship title.
He continued: “I just can’t see people’s perceptions of how getting to two cup finals and reaching the playoffs is a glass half-empty. I just don’t get it.
“If we had only reached the playoffs and not got to the cup finals then I could maybe see that, but to be in the playoffs and reach two cup finals. Is that not a measurement of doing well?
“With the team we’ve got, we’re capable of doing well in the playoffs, too. I don’t look at whether we finish second, third or fourth as a success or failure – because second, third and fourth basically gets you the same thing. All one does is get you a little bit more rest.”
Hibs defender Liam Fontaine, meanwhile, is no stranger to last-day drama after helping Bristol City secure promotion to the English Championship in nerve-shredding fashion.
The 30-year-old was in the Robins side which entered the final day of the League One season in 2007 knowing that a win would see them beat Blackpool to automatic promotion.
They romped to a 3-1win, sparking a wild scenes of celebration and a pitch invasion at Ashton Gate.
While an advantage in the playoffs, rather than automatic promotion, is the prize up for grabs this time, Fontaine is ready for whatever the last day of the Championship season can throw at him.
He said: “When I was promoted to The Championship with Bristol City we had to win the last game of the season to secure second, and we won 3-1. We went up automatically.
“We didn’t need to pay any attention to what was happening elsewhere, we just needed to win the game. It wasn’t a case of needing goals, we just needed a result and we went out and got it. That is the philosophy you need in this situation.
“We knew a win was enough but you still had the potential banana skin where we could slip up.
“Rotherham were giving us a little bit of stick in the tunnel but we showed them and we won the game. You just need to concentrate on getting the right result.”