Alan Stubbs today hailed Aberdeen as genuine title contenders, but insisted the high-flying Dons, five points clear at the top of the Premiership table having clocked up eight straight wins, are not unbeatable.
The Hibs head coach was at Tynecastle ahead of tonight’s League Cup third round clash with the Dons to run the rule over Derek McInnes’ side as they crushed Capital neighbours Hearts at the weekend.
And, he admitted, he’s been highly impressed by what he’s seen of Aberdeen, saying: “They do look like genuine title contenders at this moment in time – the big question is whether they can sustain that over the course of the season.
“That has always been the case with any team, can they last the duration of the season especially when they come up against Celtic who have the finance and the resource?. I have to say looking at Aberdeen now and comparing them to last season they look like a team who could go the course and distance this season.
“You just need to look at the squad of players that Del has put together and they are strong in all departments, they are very strong from one to 20. Aberdeen have good footballers and credit to them for being where they are, nobody can deny them that.”
Such was the Dons performance in Gorgie that Sky TV commentator Ian Crocker made a suggestion along the lines that Stubbs would be “a worried man” ahead of tonight’s match as the cameras panned in on him and first team coach John Doolan as they sat in the stand at Tynecastle – but not as far as the Hibs boss is concerned.
He said: “I’m not worried at all. I am the one who picks the team – I think it is great. The day I worry about a team is the day that I am out of football. I think playing Aberdeen is a great challenge for the players. I think with the players we have we can givem them a good game. We’re not going out there just worrying about Aberdeen.
“I’ve got a huge amount of respect for them, for Del and his players. But they’re coming to Easter Road and our record isn’t bad here so it won’t be easy for them.
“We had a great game last season against Dundee United, who were the form team at that time, and we ran them close. We’re going to try to run Aberdeen as close as we possibly can. To come through the game we’ve got to play really well.
“I’ve always said that this group of players would be able to cope with the Premiership. You get more time there and more chance to play, and teams will more often than not look to have a go at you as well, so I think that will suit us.
“If you want a test, it’s a big test but as players I think it is brilliant – it doesn’t get any better.”
Stubbs admitted he was surprised the match hadn’t been chosen for television, adding: “You’ll have to ask the guy who makes the choices and see what team he supports.”