Alan Stubbs is adamant he wouldn’t have contemplated leaving Hibs if he hadn’t been headhunted by Rotherham United.
The Liverpudlian was appointed manager of the English Championship side this week, less than a fortnight after leading the Easter Road club to Scottish Cup glory for the first time in 114 years. Although Stubbs admits he would have been hard-pushed to eclipse that feat if he had remained in Edinburgh, he dismissed the suggestion that he was always planning to quit Easter Road this summer. The ambitious Scouser also poured called water on the notion that he walked out because he feared his reputation would be tarnished by a third failed promotion bid.
“If this opportunity hadn’t come up, I would have stayed at Hibs,” he said in an exclusive interview with the Evening News at Rotherham’s New York Stadium.
“I definitely wouldn’t have quit, definitely not. I’m never a quitter – I wouldn’t have walked away just because I won the Scottish Cup or didn’t get promotion.
“I didn’t have any worries about not getting promoted next season because I honestly believe we would have gone up next season. The squad is more than capable of doing that and, if we’d stayed, I think we would have got even stronger. The club is definitely robust enough financially to handle another year in the Championship. [Chief executive] Leeann Dempster made that clear to me and when she says something, she means it. There was never any suggestion from the board that the budget would have to be cut or anything like that.”
Stubbs, whose family remained in England throughout his two-year reign in Edinburgh, insists he was simply lured south by the chance to operate in a division which will contain English football heavyweights like Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Leeds United, and also offers a potential route into the promised land of the Premier League.
“It was only the fact this opportunity came up that made me leave,” he stressed. “My family being in England was part of my decision but it wasn’t a big factor. The most important factor was me getting the chance to challenge myself in the English Championship. For me, this is a great opportunity at a really good club. To be able to ply my trade against the top managers and top clubs in this division is something I just couldn’t refuse. The ultimate aim for me is to manage in the Premier League one day and, in order to do that, this seemed like a natural step to take.”
Even when Rotherham first made their interest known, Stubbs insists he was torn in two minds over whether to stay at Hibs or not. A meeting with Dempster and head of football operations George Craig in Carlisle last week made his decision even harder.
“I was in England at the time Rotherham’s interest came up but myself and Leeann both wanted to speak face to face because that’s the sort of relationship we have,” said Stubbs. “I met Leeann and George halfway, in Carlisle, and they did everything they possibly could to keep me at Hibs. It was tough because it was a conversation I don’t think any of us thought we would be having.
“My mind wasn’t made up at that time. It was only when I met the chairman at Rotherham and he spoke to me about his ideas and what he wanted to do with the club that I decided I wanted to come here.”