BY ALAN TEMPLE, Rotherham – @CCP_Sport
Alan Stubbs has assured Hibs supporters that chief executive Leeann Dempster will find the right man to succeed him – after revealing the decision quit Easter Road just days after lifting the Scottish Cup was the toughest of his career.
Stubbs was unveiled by Rotherham United yesterday after penning a three-year deal with the Millers alongside trusted assisted John Doolan.
It leaves the Hibees searching for their ninth permanent manager in 10 years and has brought the club quickly crashing back down to earth following the elation of their first Scottish Cup triumph since 1902.
However, the departing boss has told fans that Hibs have the right management structure in place to pull another rabbit out of the hat with their next appointment.
He said: “Every decision in that job is a big call. When you look back, I think she got the decision to bring me in right. It worked out well.
“Leeann has been fantastic throughout my time at Hibs, we had a great relationship and I hope that will carry on even though I’m no longer at the club. We’ll speak over the coming days, months and years.
“I have no doubt, having worked closely with her, director of football George [Craig] and the chairman [Rod Petrie] that they will get the next appointment right.
“I am glad that it has happened early rather than later in the summer, when it may have had a much bigger impact. Hibs can go and find a replacement and hopefully begin a successful new chapter and I can do the same at Rotherham.
“Whoever takes over – and I wish them all the best – will walk into a fantastic club and one in much better shape than when I walked in! There is nothing that needs addressing. From the moment I walked in to the moment I left, I think a lot of fans will feel like they have their football club back.
“Someone can go in and hit the ground running and get the club back to the Premiership. I think that says a lot about the job we did.”
Stubbs insists he agonised over his decision to leave Hibs after an eventful tenure in Leith, which began when he was charged with picking up the pieces from the disastrous Terry Butcher regime which saw them relegated to the Championship in June 2014.
He had eight recognised senior players to call upon, not a single goalkeeper among them and saw morale at an all-time low. Punters were even were protesting against chairman Rod Petrie in the Easter Road car park.
Two years later and Hibs have the Scottish Cup in their trophy cabinet for the first time since 1902. The Holy Grail captured; an obsession satisfied.
Reflecting on that triumph, he smiled: “If you are going to leave any club, then to leave them on the back of that is a fantastic way to go. It is one of those occasions that I will never, ever forget.
“I am just so delighted I was able to give those supporters something they thought might never happen.”
Stubbs also guided the club to the League Cup final last term and has assembled an array of fine talents such as John McGinn, Jason Cummings and Dylan McGeouch for his successor to work with.
He did, however, fail to guide Hibs back to the top flight – undoubtedly a major blot to an otherwise impressive copybook.
He continued: “It was an enormous decision for me. After what happened in the last two years – that journey from where Hibs were when we took the club over to where we are now – it made it a really difficult decision to leave that behind.
“I can completely understand fans’ disappointment. This is probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make in football.”
However, the prospect of crossing swords with clubs like Newcastle, Aston Villa and QPR in a SkyBet Championship he describes as “one of the most competitive leagues in the world” has clearly got his competitive juices flowing.
The task for unfashionable Rotherham in a division of giants is vast, however the rewards are immense, with the riches of the Barclay’s Premier League just one good season away. Just ask similarly modest Bournemouth.
He continued: “This is a great opportunity to build something. Rotherham are really ambitious, the chairman [Tony Stewart] is infectious and pragmatic. He wants to see progression and realises that it won’t necessarily happen overnight.
“I’ve got good foundations in place but I am looking to enhance what has gone before and improve that and take the club forward.
“There are a few models we can look at, but Bournemouth are certainly a good one. They are a similar type of club and stadium. It shows you what can be done.
“The Championship is one of the most competitive leagues in the world. People might look at it and go: ‘wow, that’s really tough’. But, for me, it’s just a different type of challenge.”
Stubbs has been joined at the New York Stadium by assistant John Doolan, adding “we are a team and any time I enjoy success; we enjoy success. It will be the same here.”
He hopes Andy Holden, another member of his coaching set-up at Hibs will be next to arrive, however the final details of that switch are yet to be finalised.
Stubbs said of Holden: “I hope he will be coming too. He is another big part of the team and he is a different part of the team and a different mechanism. But he’s no less important.”