Alan STUBBS has admitted he’ll pick his team for tonight’s final pre-season friendly against Ayr United with Saturday’s Petrofac Training Cup clash against Championship title rivals Rangers in mind.
Hibs may travel to Somerset Park without their head coach, with Stubbs due to make up his mind later today whether to travel to Ayrshire or take in Rangers’ friendly against Burnley at Ibrox, his one and only chance to see the Glasgow outfit under new boss Mark Warburton before they pitch up in Edinburgh at the weekend.
“I can’t see Mark playing anything but a strong team,” revealed Stubbs, “so from that point of view, it gives me a chance to see what we could be up against on Saturday, but I’ve still to decide.”
While Warburton has talked of the weekend’s match as being part of his team’s pre-season schedule, the priority being, like Hibs, the beginning of the league campaign a fortnight later as they seek to win promotion at the second time of asking, the Capital boss insisted he won’t be approaching it with anything other than a determination to win.
He said: “My mindset is that I play every game to win. I did that as a kid and I don’t see why I’d change as a coach. We are still building, but for me when you are at a big club you are expected to win every game. I’m not concerned about how other people want to talk about the game – my only concern is winning it.
“We want to come through the tie. It’s our first game, it’s at home in front of our own fans who, I am sure, are looking forward to it.”
Both Hibs and Rangers enjoyed shorter breaks than most clubs after being embroiled in the Premiership play-offs, but, Stubbs insisted, his players are ready to go again. He said: “The players have had four or five weeks so they did not lose too much condition. It’s been a mater of topping up and getting them sharp and mentally focused for the season ahead.”
Winning both the Petrofac Training Cup tie and the League Cup game against Montrose a week later would undoubtedly boost confidence among players and fans alike before Hibs kick off their league season at Dumbarton on August 8, but for the moment Stubbs is focused purely on coming through tonight’s match unscathed following wins over both Berwick Rangers and Dunfermline in the past week.
He said: “We’ll mix things up a bit tonight. We have a couple of niggles, nothing new from the weekend, and we have to make sure we manage the squad so that everybody is right for August 8.”