I’m not really sure how to feel about this news. Alan Stubbs gave me, without a doubt, the best day of my Hibs-supporting life. He also oversaw some of the worst.
When Hibs sacked Terry Butcher after our relegation at the end of the 2013/14 season we absolutely had to get the next appointment right or we faced a very grim future. I was excited at the possibility of Alan Stubbs when the rumours started. He was very much in the mold of Tony Mowbray who had so much success as Hibs manager 10 years previously. Big, strong character who captained a huge club for years and coached at big clubs before taking the first steps into management with Hibs. Mowbray though never faced anything like the challenge Alan Stubbs would in his first few months at Easter Road.
I’m being kind when I say Hibs were in complete shambles the day Alan Stubbs walked through the door for the first time. After the out of contract players left the club there was only 12 remaining who had played a first team game and not one of them was a goalkeeper. I’m sure I read somewhere that, had he known the mess we were in on and off the park Alan Stubbs would never have accepted the job. The only positive is that it really couldn’t get much worse that it was.
After a poor start to the season, 4 losses from the first 6 league games, we beat much fancied Rangers 3-1 away and went on an incredible run of 1 defeat in 6 months. The signings Alan Stubbs and George Craig, Hibs new head of football operations, made worked wonders and we looked like a very good side. We finished the season with 5 straight wins and claimed a very strong 2nd place. A 2-1 aggregate defeat to Rangers in the playoff semi-final was a hard one to take but I think every Hibs fan was satisfied with the clear progress we had made in Alan Stubbs first season and was confident we would be promoted in the 2015/16 season.
The problem is, we are still saying exactly the same things 12 months later. Despite having a clearly better squad than the season before we still failed to win automatic promotion, still failed in the playoff semi-finals and even ended on exactly the same points total as in 2014/15. Over 2 years it is difficult to look at Alan Stubbs league performance with Hibs as anything other than a failure. I’m not sure it was bad enough for me to want him to leave or be happy that he has but it wasn’t good enough for me to desperately want him to stay or make me think that there wasn’t a better manager out there.
With that being said, his cup performances at Hibs have been excellent. 1 kick away from both semi-finals in his first season and 2 finals in his second season, one of them being a Scottish cup win. That is ultimately what he will be remembered for by most Hibs fans and rightfully so. He achieved what 29 before him couldn’t. He broke the hoodoo and I will always thank him for it but maybe it was the right time for him to move. For the first time in years, a new manager at Hibs will inherit a very good squad and a positive fan base, there will be plenty of suitors for the job.
The obvious names have already been branded about, Stuart McCall being the main one. He has past experience working with Leeann Dempster, our CEO, at Motherwell where they had a lot of success. I’m not really sure I want him at Hibs, though. He hasn’t always been positive about the club and it is well known he is a big Rangers fan who played for them for many years. This doesn’t really bother me much but it will bother a lot of our supporters as it did with Alex Miller and Bobby Williamson in the past.
I would prefer someone from down south, either in the Stubbs/Mowbray mold or an experienced manager who knows how to get promoted, Steve Cotterill for example. Guys like McCall, Jimmy Calderwood, Jackie McNamara, Yogi Hughes, and John Collins are all without jobs for a reason and I don’t want us scraping the bottom of the barrel like we have in the past. I trust Leeann Dempster to get it right and whoever she chooses will get my full support from their first day till their last.