Alan Stubbs has explained that one of his key tasks over the next few days will be managing the mindsets of the Hibs players as Sunday’s League Cup final draws closer.
The mood at the Easter Road side’s training camp in the Costa del Sol has been relaxed and upbeat ahead of the Hampden showdown with Ross County.
But, as they prepare to leave the La Cala Resort to fly back into Scotland this evening, Stubbs knows cup final fervour is about to be cranked up another level.
Stubbs is eager to ensure that each of his players retain a healthy balance between focusing on the task in hand and not fretting so much about the magnitude of the game that they end up being unable to perform on the day.
“When you are younger, it is all about how you control the week,” said the head coach. “When you are more experienced, it just becomes another week, albeit with more attention around the game. When you are young, there is a lot of excitement and some nervousness towards the game. It becomes about controlling that. I’ve seen players who are totally wiped by the time they get to game time because they have built up so much nervous energy. You can get to a cup final and you don’t feel like you have anything in your legs. That’s the one thing we are trying to avoid and it’s a part of the reason we came to Spain.”
Stubbs has kept team-talks measured but low-key so far this week and has avoided any tub-thumping addresses to his charges. He is relying on his more experienced players to help he and his coaching staff keep the younger players in the correct frame of mind.
“You can detect the excitement and the nerves, which is where the more senior players will speak to them,” said Stubbs. “There are only a couple who have actually been to a final. My own and my staff’s experience will come into that, speaking to them and trying to make sure they are as relaxed as possible.
“There will be no big speeches or hyping things up. We’ll save that for the day itself. There is a balance to strike, because you have to be very good to play a cup final down. It could be one of the most memorable days of their football career, potentially. You don’t know when it will next come around.”
John McGinn will learn this afternoon if he has been called into the Scotland set-up for the first time. National team manager Gordon Strachan was due to name his squad for the friendlies against Czech Republic and Denmark later this month and the Hibs midfielder and Scotland Under-21 captain has been heavily touted for inclusion following an impressive first season at Easter Road.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen what official celebrations will take place if Hibs win the League Cup. An open-top bus parade through the city and back to the stadium straight after the match on Sunday night – as traditionally happens – is unlikely to be sanctioned due to the level of policing that would be required on the same day that Scotland’s rugby team are playing France at Murrayfield. The club are working towards a solution, with the possibility that any official victory celebrations would have to be held on another day.