Travelling army give Hibs a boost

Alan Stubbs

Alan Stubbs

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Hibs boss Alan Stubbs today insisted no-one would have given the Easter Road side any hope of finishing in second place in the Championship given the turmoil which had gripped the club at the beginning of the season.

Hibs boss Alan Stubbs today insisted no-one would have given the Easter Road side any hope of finishing in second place in the Championship given the turmoil which had gripped the club at the beginning of the season.

Victory over Falkirk on Saturday will assure Stubbs’ players of finishing runners-up to runaway title winners Hearts, reducing the number of play-off games and keeping Hibs firmly on track for promotion alongside their Capital rivals.

Before a ball was kicked Rangers were installed as firm favourites with Hearts to finish second and Hibs, reeling from the shock of relegation following a disastrous slump in the final months of last season, to trail in third.

But while Hearts turned the bookies’ odds on their head, the bookies’ prediction of Hibs coming third looked wildly optimistic as four of their first six league games were lost.

Since then, though, Stubbs’ side have shrugged off disappointments, not least the Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Saturday’s opponents, to head into the final day of the regular season in pole position for second.

In bidding to do so they will be roared on by a near 3500-strong green and white army, a sign along with the revelation that season tickets sales are running ahead of last year’s total, believes Stubbs, that the fans recognise the turnaround in their club’s fortunes over the past nine months.

The head coach said: “It’s fantastic we had to ask for another 1500 tickets on top of the 1800 we’d already sold. It makes for a good atsmosphere. But I’m not surprised, they’ve given the team great support all season.

“They’d have been disappointed with the result in the semi-final but I think a lot of them were very proud of the way the team performed. We were very unlucky but we go into Saturday with the opportunity of finishing second.

“I don’t think many would have given us that before the season started when you think about what we have had to contend with and what we’ve had to build. We were always playing catch-up from day one. When you see the turnaround of so many players, rarely does it take shape very quickly.

“It takes time, a bedding-in period, but after the first couple of months the team slowly but surely improved. Unfortunately by then the horse had already bolted, as in Hearts, and we could never eat into that lead.

“From that point of view it was difficult but we have done remarkably well to be where we are. A lot of people deserve a lot of credit for that – the players and people behind the scenes.”

The take-up of season tickets, on average 5 per cent cheaper than last year, has delighted both Stubbs and chief executive Leeann Dempster with funds raised going directly to first-team plans for next season. Already more than 5000 have been sold including, according to Dempster, “hundreds” of lapsed season-ticket holders.

Stubbs said: “The response so far has been absolutely brilliant and the more supporters who come on board and commit to season tickets strengthens our plans in terms of player recruitment.”