It’s barely two weeks until Alan Stubbs takes charge of Hibs for the first time but by then Berwick Rangers boss Colin Cameron expects the new head coach at Easter Road will be ready to hit the ground running.
The result of the Edinburgh club’s first pre-season friendly at Shielfield Park will, of course, count for little but Cameron anticipates a green-and-white army descending on the Borders town, drawn not only by the prospect of seeing Stubbs in the away dug-out but the beginnings of the new-look team they expect him to fashion.
Although Stubbs has barely had his feet under his desk at East Mains, Cameron believes the 42-year-old won’t have made the switch from Everton without having done his homework, not only on the depleted squad he has inherited from predecessor Terry Butcher, but on potential signings he hopes will join him, if not by July 12 then most certainly by the time Hibs host Livingston in their first Championship match a month later.
Only 15 players – and not a goalkeeper among them – were there to greet Stubbs on his first day at the training centre, deficiences which Stubbs promised to address, saying: “There will be a lot of players coming in and competition for places will be really strong. We will have a team on the pitch come the first day of the season I’m sure the fans are going to be excited to watch.”
Former Hearts midfielder Cameron admitted he will be watching with interest how things develop on the east side of the Capital over the next couple of weeks and beyond, but agreed the arrival of Stubbs has added a little bit more to his League Two side’s meeting with Hibs. He said: “I think with it being Alan’s first game in charge it will generate a bit more interest and attract a bigger crowd which for us financially will be very good.”
Cameron confesses to having no great personal friendship with Stubbs other than having played against him both for Hearts and Wolves, but insists the Scouser’s impressive record as a coach at Goodison Park speaks for itself as he has played a pivotal role in the development of players such as Ross Barkley, John Stones and Luke Garbutt.
The fact Toffees chairman Bill Kenwright saw fit to interview him for the vacant manager’s job on Merseyside following David Moyes’ defection to Manchester United before offering it to Roberto Martinez is, in Cameron’s estimation, another indication of the regard in which Stubbs is held.
He said: “I played against Alan many moons ago, I’ve spoken to him a few times and, going on what I have seen, he seems a really nice guy, a bit of a gent.
“He’s obviously done some tremendous work with the youths at Everton. The [quality of] guys he’s brought through the ranks there says it all and I’d imagine he’ll be looking to do the same at Hibs, although he’ll know it’s not all about youngsters but bringing in good, experienced heads.
“But I know from my own personal experience that he won’t have gone into the interview with Hibs without having done his homework on the players who are already there and it will be up to them over the course of pre-season to make sure they are in his plans.”
Cameron acknowledged there will be those who might question the wisdom of handing Stubbs his first chance at out-and-out management but, as he pointed out, there is a growing trend within the game to give younger coaches such an opportunity with Aberdeen, Dundee United and Hearts all boasting managers of more tender years than was once the case.
On the other hand, others may question Stubbs’ sanity in becoming the seventh occupant of the Easter Road hotseat in just eight years, particularly at such a low point in the club’s history, the cataclysmic run of results in the second half of the season culminating in relegation and the sacking of Butcher.
Cameron, however, insisted: “There’s no such thing as an easier job. As a player you have no fears…when opportunities come up you take them. You don’t think ‘hang on a minute, I’ll wait until I can get a better one’. It’s the same as a manager. In this day and age it’s difficult to get a job. There’s a lot of people scrambling for every one.”
The fact Hibs chief executive Leeann Demspter revealed she had received more than 40 applications for the vacancy would support such an assertion, but if Stubbs is untested he has, as Cameron stressed, gained a wealth of experience – and contacts – not only in a long playing career but in six years coaching with Everton.
While experience may help, it is no guarantee of success as Hibs have discovered to their cost in recent years. Cameron said: “I think it’s great to see more and more clubs going down the road of giving young managers opportunities. Of course it’s a gamble every time a new manager is appointed, but you look at the experience Alan gained as a player at the level he played at and the years of coaching he’s already done.
“You want to be successful, you want to win things and to get a club which has maybe been ailing back on the road is a massive challenge, but one I think he will love. Every job has its own pressures, it’s all about how you cope.
“The fact he was interviewed for the Everton job last summer shows how people down there think of him. He’ll even have learned from going through that interview experience.”
Stubbs’ situation is, in many ways, similar to that which Tony Mowbray underwent when he arrived at Easter Road nine years ago, boasting impressive coaching credentials at Ipswich Town but untried in frontline management.
According to Cameron, though, Stubbs, like Mowbray, will bring an intimate knowledge of the English scene, one which allowed “Mogga” to entice unknown youngsters such as Dean Shiels and David Murphy to Edinburgh with great success.
Cameron said: “That’s what contacts are there for. You never dismiss anyone because you never know when they can help you. The contacts he has gained both as a player and a coach will undoubtedly prove invaluable. There’s not a lot of time before we play Hibs, but he’ll have enough time to evaluate everyone already there, decide the targets he wants to bring in and I’m sure he’ll have a team and the style of play he wants to introduce ready to go.
“One thing is sure, the Championship is probably going to generate more excitement than the Premiership with Hearts, Hibs and Rangers all there. Rangers will, I’d imagine, be favourites, but all three will have aspirations of winning the title. But that’s not a foregone conclusion because you can’t discount the other teams in the league.”