Deflated Hibs boss Alan Stubbs today refused to discuss his future after the Easter Road outfit were condemned to another year in the Championship, insisting: “It’s not about me.”
Another last-gasp goal from Falkirk’s Bob McHugh left Stubbs and his players stunned, the Bairns having come from behind to win their place in the Premiership play-off final against Kilmarnock.
And, having seen a James Keatings double put Hibs ahead after Blair Alston’s earlier opener for the Bairns, Stubbs admitted he didn’t see the defeat coming, the Capital side ahead until 11 minutes from the end when Luke Leahy made it 2-2.
He said: “It’s a really cruel way to lose the game, any game. To lose like that is obviously disappointing. When we were 2-1 ahead I thought we were looking in control, we seemed to have grabbed hold of the game which looked as if it was drifting away from Falkirk.
“To be honest the lad’s [Leahy’s] great strike has given them a lift. I thought we’d dealt with all the throw-ins and free kicks into the box well for the majority of the game but not the most important one.”
And asked how he viewed the future, a third season in the second tier of Scottish football which is unprecedented for Hibs, he said: “It’s not the time to speak about that. It’s not about me really.
“Right now it’s about the players and the club. Since I have come in we have put things in place that will give it a better chance of progressing forward.
“If you look at the players were have brought in, there are real assets there, gifted young players.
“We will have discussions with them over the coming weeks. We’ve had a clear pathway from day one about what we wanted to do.
“I don’t see any of them necessarily wanting to leave because of what happened. If anything it will drive them forward. Most of the players are under contract. It’s not what we wanted, far from it.
“But this last two years have probably been the toughest to get out of the Championship. That’s no consolation to us.”
Stubbs has been backed by the Easter Road board throughout the past two seasons and, asked if the money will still be there next season, he replied: “We have got to two cup finals which helps the revenues. I have really good people behind me that have the club’s best interests at heart, they have been very supportive.
“It’s not as if we overspending, we have very clever people who can deal with that.”
Stubbs is now faced with lifting his players for next weekend’s Scottish Cup final against Rangers but, he insisted, he’ll have no problem doing that saying: “That’s how you can lift yourself because we still have a huge game next week.
“The players will have a couple of days to reflect and get this out of their system.
“And we’ll be back in Monday and we’ll gradually prepare them as the week goes on – and see if we can sample a high in football.”
Stubbs refused to look for excuses, adamant that to blame the blatant penalty Hibs didn’t get when 2-1 ahead in the first leg against Falkirk would simply be “sour grapes”, adding: “ We are bigger than that as a club.
“It was a pivotal moment but we had time to put it right.”
And striker Keatings admitted this defeat was the worst experience he’d ever gone through.
He said: “It’s hugely disappointing. We put so much into both games and I thought we were by far the better team. It’s by far the worst I have ever felt in my career – fine margins – that’s football for you, the highs and lows.
“We have to pick ourselves up for the cup final. We have to put it this to the back of our minds and look to give the supporters back for travelling all over the country to back us.”