Alan Stubbs: I’ll be toasting Hibs’ historic cup victory

Alan Stubbs followed the players, below, up the steps of Hampden to lift the famous trophy
Alan Stubbs followed the players, below, up the steps of Hampden to lift the famous trophy
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Alan Stubbs will be golfing with a few mates in Marbella tomorrow, but he admits he’ll find it hard to stop his mind drifting towards those monumental events of a year ago.

When he finishes his round he will be raising a glass to that day at Hampden when Hibs finally put 114 years of pain behind them by lifting the Scottish Cup.

And he is sure there will be thousands of fans of the club doing exactly the same thing, recalling skipper David Gray’s stunning last-minute winner and the epic scenes as the streets of Edinburgh turned green and white the following day.

He reckons it is a story line which even ardent Hibs fan Irvine Welsh would have struggled to have visioned although, he believes, it’s one the Trainspotting author might well wish he had written himself.

“It’s hard to believe it’s just a year ago,” confessed Stubbs who shocked everyone by quitting Hibs for an ill-fated spell as manager of Rotherham United.

“It’s always a fantastic feeling when you can look back at something like that you have achieved.

“There’s a lot of people who are in the same profession who have not got as fond memories to look back on so I look upon myself as being quite privileged to be honest.”

Hibs’ love-hate relationship with the cup was, of course, one of the first subjects Stubbs was made aware of – as was the case with each and every one of his predecessors – when he arrived at a club reeling from the shock of relegation and suffering from deep divisions between angry supporters and those at the helm.

He recalled: “Yes, you quickly find out about it. People within the club told me, but I thought some people liked the thought of mentioning it all the time at press conferences.

“So I must admit to be able to look back with such fondness on such a brilliant day gives a lot of satisfaction, not just for myself but everyone involved. I was just so happy and privileged we were able to provide a day for people to look back on for the rest of their lives.”

Promotion, of course, had been the top priority, Hibs falling just short as they were beaten in the play-offs by Falkirk but, Stubbs believes, any snap survey among the fan base would probably have uncovered a 50/50 split between that and winning the cup.

Stubbs, however, insists that having had the disappointment of losing the League Cup final to Ross County a few months earlier, failing to gain promotion merely strengthened his belief in his players.

He said: “Had the final been in the first year it might have been a different outcome but we had come such a long way in such a short space of time in the second year. I felt we had come through quite a lot of adversity.

“We were probably the better team in the League Cup final but lost because of a couple of mistakes. In the play-offs I don’t think anyone could argue we were the better team over the two legs but came out on the wrong end of it.”

Having lost to Falkirk despite being 2-1 ahead in the second leg of the play-off and winning 4-3 on aggregate, the Scottish Cup final against a Rangers side which had romped away with the Championship title, coming just days later, represented not only the thought of a historic day at Hampden but some form of redemption.

Stubbs said: “What it all kept doing was building character and testing their mental strength. A lot was said about them: were they up to it; were they weak characters; was it going to be another case of having ‘Hibsed’ it?

“But I knew what I had, I worked with them on a daily basis, I think what happened brought them together even more. The will to succeed and put it right grew even stronger.”

If events on the day were a story within itself, Anthony Stokes putting Hibs ahead only for Kenny Miller and Andy Halliday to edge Rangers in front before Stokes, again, and Gray clinched victory, so too was the journey to Hampden itself.

Capital rivals Hearts were beaten as were the then cup holders Inverness Caley, the two Premiership clubs adding to the scalps of Aberdeen, Dundee United and St Johnstone taken in the League Cup run, leaving only United between Hibs and the final.

Almost as an omen as to what was to happen on the big day itself, that semi-final had a fairytale of its own with goalkeeper Conrad Logan, clearly out of shape, drafted in for his first game in 18 months after Mark Oxley was suspended, the Irishman pulling off a string of impressive saves and then surpassing them by saving two United penalties in the shoot-out which followed a no-scoring draw.

Add in Jason Cummings’ ‘Panenka’ spot-kick in the first half which sailed over the crossbar before the youngster redeemed himself with the winning penalty and there’s little wonder many felt Hibs name was already on the cup.

But it was the scenes in the Capital the following day as Hibs paraded the cup which Stubbs admitted will live with him forever while the hairs on the back of his neck rise every time he hears the strains of “Sunshine on Leith”.

He said: “I have experienced a few things but I can probably say I couldn’t possibly witness something so amazing again. When I was at Celtic we couldn’t have an open-top for obvious reasons. It was just incredible. To see grown men on the streets openly crying, young kids who can say they were there. You couldn’t put it into words.”

Stubbs was back in Edinburgh as Hibs launched the DVD to mark the occasion and has since, he admitted, watched “certain parts” again but, he revealed, it’s Sunshine on Leith which gets him every time.

“From the day I joined the club until the day I die that song will still give me pins and needles, make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up,” he said. “It’s possibly one of the best football songs there is. I had friends come up to watch Hibs against Hearts, and in the cup final, and that was all they were talking about, asking ‘Sunshine on Leith,’ how good is that? They were blown away by it.

“I’m sure there will be loads of Hibs fans having a drink tomorrow and recalling everything that happened.

“I’ll be in Marbella golfing, but I’ll be having one as well and reflecting on that day myself.”