Alan Stubbs believes a few days of training in the Spanish sunshine will ensure Hibs are in the best shape possible for Sunday’s League Cup final against Ross County.
The Easter Road squad last night checked in to the idyllic La Cala Resort in the Andalusian hills and will remain here until Thursday and then fly back to Edinburgh to finalise preparations for the biggest game of their season so far.
Stubbs thanked the club’s board for allowing him to take his players abroad and believes the four-day stint on the Costa del Sol will help rejuvenate them following a gruelling run of fixtures across three competitions over the last couple of months.
While cup final opponents County are taking a business-as-usual approach by remaining in the Highlands, Hibs’ head coach cited the chance to prepare in more harmonious conditions and the opportunity to escape the hype back home among his main reasons for requesting a sunshine training camp.
“It’s something we had spoken about for a number of weeks,” said Stubbs. “It’s been a heavy schedule over the last month. We’ve had ten games in the space of 32 days, so I wanted to try and take them away from all the publicity around the game and have an enclosed training camp where it’s just us and we can work on what we need to work on for the game in a relaxed environment away from all the TV.
“I just wanted to have a really relaxed environment before Sunday because I know the tension can build before the game. I asked about the opportunity of taking them away to do that and the club have, again, backed me and trusted me by doing it.
“Our training pitches have been really poor lately, they have been really heavy. And with the uncertainty over the weather, we are now in an environment where we know we’re getting a good surface and we know we’re getting a decent climate where we can stop and walk through things without having to worry about players being cold. That’s one of the reasons why we have done it.
“We can spend an hour and a half, two hours on the training ground rather than rush through an hour and 45 minutes of training into one hour.”
The last time Hibs won the League Cup, in 2007, then manager John Collins also took them to the Costa del Sol to prepare. Pat Fenlon took his team to Dublin ahead of the 2012 Scottish Cup final, but, after losing 5-1 to Hearts, they stayed in Edinburgh in the build-up to their 3-0 defeat by Celtic in the final a year later.
Hibs had two training stints at the Spanish resort of La Manga last year, but Stubbs decided to take his team to La Cala on this occasion after being impressed by the facilities when staying here in his days as an Everton player.
“I have been here before and the pitches are very good,” he said. “I trained here with Everton. It’s all enclosed, it’s very private and you get well looked after. We’re here to recover from Sunday [the 1-1 Scottish Cup quarter-final draw against Inverness] and prepare for this Sunday.
“It’s nice for the players to get a little bit of sun on their backs just to re-energise them. We all know going away to a bit of sun does make you feel good rather than turning up for training and all you see is rain, snow and wind. This is not a reward or anything – this is preparation for a cup final on Sunday.”
Dylan McGeouch arrived in Spain with his team-mates even though a groin problem, which was aggravated against Inverness on Sunday, looks certain to rule him out of the final. Paul Hanlon, who will definitely miss out through injury, also made the trip. Fraser Fyvie will be closely monitored in training as he bids to prove his fitness in time for Sunday following a month out with medial ligament damage.