Former Celtic defender on missing out on Arsenal and England, Wim Jansen and that unforgettable moment with Hibs

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Alan Stubbs insists spending five of ‘my happiest years’ at Celtic made missing out on playing for Arsenal and England irrelevant.

The former defender had been the subject of a bid from the Gunners, who were then managed by his former Bolton boss Bruce Rioch, but Stubbs still moved to Parkhead in a record breaking £4 million transfer in 1996.

As well as twice overcoming cancer in his time north of the border, the 48-year-old won five domestic trophies, including two top-flight league titles, before joining Everton in 2001.

And Stubbs cites his time with the Bhoys as the most enjoyable in his playing career.

Stubbs, who returned to Scotland as manager of Hibs in 2014 before also taking charge of St Mirren in four years later, said: “I was 30 minutes outside Glasgow and Bruce rang to say, ‘I am having problems here, I could be gone soon, go and sign for Celtic.

“Good on Bruce for telling me.

“Arsenal would have been something else, playing at Highbury and alongside Tony Adams.

“People were talking about me potentially playing for England and it could have led to that – but my career is not defined by not having an England cap.

“It’s not the be all and end all. I had five of my happiest years with Celtic.”

Stubbs was part of Wim Jansen’s side that denied Rangers a tenth successive league crown, but concedes the Dutchman had an unorthodox style on the training ground.

Recounting an unusual experience, Stubbs added: “One day he deliberately put on a really poor training session.

“He wanted everything to be slow, we were bored and getting nothing from it. He was stopping and starting, getting his coach to interject.

“He wanted to see who would say something, who were his leaders? 

“I told him what I thought of it.

“He never responded, gave nothing away. He just wanted to know who would accept it and who wouldn’t.

“We didn’t know until way down the line what he had been doing.”

When it comes to management, Stubbs, who took over the reins at Hibs following their relegation from the Premiership, admits the euphoria of ending the club’s 114-year Scottish Cup hoodoo against Rangers in 2016 at Hampden is something he will never forget.

Speaking to the official Everton website, he added: “I walked into turmoil at Hibs but that gave me a blank canvas and I worked with a brilliant chief executive in Leeann Dempster.

“The fans wanted the chairman (Rod Petrie) out and there were lots of protests. But I loved the challenge.

“By the end, we felt we’d given the fans their club back.

“Missing promotion was a massive blow because that was the main objective.

“I spoke to the players all week before the cup final about their chance to go down in history.

“We had to change the club’s mindset.

“Hibs fans were mentally scarred going into finals.

“Saying somebody ‘Hibs’d it’ meant they’d bottled it. But I just knew we’d win.

“Walking out at Goodison to captain Everton in a Merseyside derby takes some beating.

“But the jubilation and pride of winning something for other people was incredible.

“It was so emotional, such a powerful moment.”

 
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