Alan Stubbs has revealed he’ll be urging his players to live the dream as they take to the pitch at Hampden seeking to end Hibs’ 114-year wait to lift the Scottish Cup.
The Easter Road head coach admitted he’s surprised it’s been so long since a club of Hibs’ size has won the trophy but reiterated his belief that the hoodoo will come to an end one day – claiming there’s no reason not to think that tomorrow could be that historic moment.
Stubbs knows his players are fully aware of the legendary status which would be accorded them if they were to succeed where great sides of the past like the Famous Five and Turnbull’s Tornadoes failed and, while conceding they face a difficult game against Championship winners Rangers, he insisted it remains a good opportunity for the long, long wait to end.
The Scottish Cup has become Hibs own “Holy Grail”, Stubbs joking as this season’s campaign got underway that “even Indiana Jones had got that in the end”. Adamant there will be no such headlines this time - the former Celtic and Everton defender found himself depicted as Harrison Ford’s character in the Press – he said: “I’ll think of something else.
“But it will end one day. This club is too big for it to carry on forever. I’m surprised it’s been so long, but there is evidence of big clubs and players who don’t get to major cup finals but have been fantastic players.
“My players will be waking up tomorrow morning and will be fulfilling something they dreamt about as a kid and that’s fantastic. They are definitely aware of he significance, some of them will read newspapers, they’ll be told about it by the fans. Even if you want to get away from it, it’s there.
“It’s a part of winning it, understanding what’s gone on in the past and what has stopped the club from winning it for such a long time. You can’t end that wait unless you are in a final, our players have an opportunity to make history.
“I don’t think you can ignore it. It’s such a fantastic occasion and what’s at stake is something they will remember for the rest of their lives. When it’s something as significant as that, it would be foolish not to use it – but there will be other things I’ll speak to them about.”
And Stubbs believes the fact his squad have recent experience of playing at Hampden will stand them in good stead, pointing out that in days past only finals were staged at the national stadium.
He said: “It will help that we have played there a few times this season. In the old days it was only one game and when you came out, you could be completely in awe of the place. Sometimes you can lost sight of having a game of football to play and it can sweep you off your feet.
“But we have had the experience of it this season. In the League Cup final I thought we performed quite well but didn’t get the result. Against Dundee United in the Scottish Cup semi-final, we didn’t perform as well but we got the result. Tomorrow we have to bring our ‘A’ game.”
Stubbs knows that he, too, could find his place in Hibs folklore as the first manager since Dan McMichael in 1902 to have guided his team to such glory, but he’s less interested in personal accolades than enjoying watching his players succeed.
“The players could become legends. I’ve said all along that I’m not really interested in me and I’d me more pleased for the players and the football club as a whole.
“The players have had a long, tough season and it would be a fantastic way to end it. Maybe I wouldn’t have to buy a pint in Leith – but that’s not to say I have to buy one already when I go out there.
“It certainly helps on your CV, but for me tomorrow is all about one thing and that is trying to win the game. We know if we win the game then everything falls into place, the adulation, the writing of themselves into history, all of that falls into place.”
Stubbs and his players were dealt a devastating blow when Falkirk ended their promotion hopes only a week ago, but he’s adamant everyone has got over that disappointment, saying: “The result didn’t go our way, but then our attention was immediately focused on Monday and moving on. The players were given the weekend off to go and spend time with their families.
“You have to move on, if you stand still in football, it will bypass you. The players came in on Monday, trained very well as they did on Tuesday. They trained with a real edge. I was very pleased, they trained the way a team should train when they have a big game coming up.”
Stubbs knows that given the disappointments of losing the League Cup final and missing out on promotion will inevitably raise the time-worn question of “bottle” should they lose tomorrow. He said: “Some people will say it, but in terms of major finals we have been in one since I’ve been here and we lost it. It could easily have gone the other way.
“In semi-finals we have proved we can win. I suppose the ultimate one would be to prove it in a final. There would be no better way than to prove it in a Scottish Cup final.
“It’s exciting right now, no matter who you are you are thinking about the what ifs, the maybes and looking at all the scenarios of the day. But once you get to kick-off time, the serious business kicks in and more often than not the best team on the day goes and wins it.”