Alan Stubbs has insisted the outcome of Hibs’ next three games won’t define the Easter Road club’s season, but give him an indication of how things might unfold.
The Capital club go into tonight’s rearranged clash with Falkirk trailing Championship leaders Rangers by 11 points before facing Raith Rovers on Saturday and then taking on the Ibrox club the next weekend.
But while that run has been described as “challenging”, Stubbs insisted he views it and the League Cup quarter-final with Dundee United to follow as exciting although he admitted that if Hibs were to meet their season’s ambitions then they need to go places like Falkirk and Kirkcaldy and win.
And that, he conceded, won’t be easy, both fourth-placed Bairns and Rovers in second boasting unbeaten home records with each of them having lost just one goal on their own turf, a fact which has possibly gone unnoticed by many, with Rangers and Hibs regarded as the two most likely sides to take the title. Stubbs, however, believes the fact his side are currently on a good run, eight matches unbeaten, has been largely ignored as Rangers 100 per cent league record has attracted all the attention even if it took a last-gasp winner from Martyn Waghorn against Queen of the South to keep it intact.
He said: “Rangers have been impressive, it doesn’t make any difference how you win a game of football. Some people may say they have been lucky in the last couple of games, but I think it’s the sign of a decent team, not necessarily playing well but you get the result.
“We all know what we are up against and when you look at the bigger picture then, realistically, they should be up there. But it’s our jobs to make it as difficult as possible for them and that’s the one thing we will be looking to try to do.
“But am I spending any time worrying about Rangers? No. We won 4-2 on Saturday and scored four very good goals, that’s all I worry about. I don’t worry about any other results.”
There’s little doubt, however, that tonight represents the beginning of the toughest run of games Hibs have encountered so far this season, but one Stubbs insisted he’s looking forward to, the head coach’s optimism strengthened by his claim that he now has the strongest squad since he took over at Easter Road, the return from injury from a clutch of long-term casualties presenting him with a myriad of options.
He said: “I don’t think the next three games will define how the season is going to go. It will give us an indication of how potentially it’s going to unfold – that would probably be the best way to describe it.
“People say we have a challenging run of fixtures coming up. I think it’s a really exciting one. We’ve got Falkirk, Raith Rovers, Rangers and Dundee United. For me that’s great. We’re winning games of football, we’ve been good since our first two games and that’s what we need to keep doing.
“In order for us to do what we want to do this season we have to go to places like Falkirk and Raith, and when Rangers come here, and when we play Dundee United in the cup, we have to get results against these types of teams.”
Defender Paul Hanlon, rested at the weekend, will be back in tonight’s squad, Stubbs adding: “The squad is as strong as it has been since I came in and now I am having, not a problem, but really having to start to think about the teams I am putting out. The players understand that whatever team is put out if for that game, that they’ve not necessarily been left our because of form or individual mistakes or whatever. I have a really strong squad, great choices for me and they know that if they take the foot off the pedal then there’s someone chomping at the bit to get in.”