HIBS head coach Alan Stubbs is hoping Andy Murray can help Hibs kick up a real racket next season, revealing the Easter Road club’s strengthening bond with the tennis ace.
Hibs fan Murray visited the Capital outfit’s East Mains training base the day before his recent wedding in April along with brother and fellow tennis star Jamie and, according to Stubbs, delivered an inspirational address to his stunned squad.
Now Stubbs is heading up a three-man party which will travel to London tomorrow to again meet up with the 2013 Wimbledon champ with Stubbs, George Craig, head of football operations, and Craig Flannigan, head of sports science and fitness, aiming to tap in to his preparations and those of his Davis Cup team-mates and back-up staff as they get ready for this weekend’s quarter-finals against France at Queen’s Club.
And, Stubbs disclosed, Murray has been given an open invitation to return to East Mains whenever he wants, the tennis star, who spent time with English Premier League giants Chelsea as he recovered from a back operation, having been highly impressed by the facilities at the £5 million state-of-the-art complex.
Murray fulfilled a long-standing desire to visit the club, where his grandfather Roy Esrkine was once a goalkeeper, both him and Jamie having become members of Hibs Kids in their early years.
However, his hectic globe-trotting schedule had put paid to previous plans and so his trip to Ormiston was kept under wraps until the day, Stubbs not telling his players until the Murray brothers were actually inside the building.
Stubbs said: “It was a really good day for everybody to be honest. It had been something that had been in the pipeline for quite a few months. Obviously, as you can imagine, Andy’s schedule is very busy. To be honest, he was absolutely first-class about it and I think anybody else possibly would have turned round and said ‘I’m too busy, I can’t fit it in.’
“But he was adamant that he wanted to do it and to be honest he went out of his way to make sure it did happen and when he came in he spoke really, really well.”
Stubbs admitted both he, his players and his backroom staff sat enthralled as they listened to the tennis brothers – Jamie, patron of the Hibs Community Foundation, having won the Wimbledon mixed doubles in 2007 but unfortunately losing in the final of this year’s mens doubles.
He said: “We tried to keep it really quiet because until he was there you are not actually sure because sometimes he was coming and then at the last minute something came up.
“Andy came in with Jamie and then we told all the players. Andy has an aura about him. When you have been as close as No.2 in the world you have something about you and he certainly had an aura about him.
“I think he has really grown as a person – I think you can see the difference in him over he years. He is an inspirational figure.
“I know the players were impressed. Obviously I have spoken to quite a few people in my time and I have to say I was very impressed by the way he spoke. He was very knowledgeable, very professional, dedicated to his sport and his lifestyle and the sacrifices he was prepared to make in order to be the best in the world came across quite evidently.
“To be honest, he was very complimentary in relating the two sports. For me, to see someone say that in front of this group of players was really important because although they are professional athletes, tennis is very much an individual sport.
“Sometimes when they turn around the only thing they can rely on is their staff and even then it is very limited.
“It’s more support than physically helping you so he has to dig deep into his own resources to find the will to do what he has to do.
“I think from a mental strength point of view tennis players are probably right up there at the pinnacle of sports people.
“For me to see someone say that in front of this group of players was really important as players we sometimes take things for granted, thinking if it’s not here it will be somewhere else. But he’s been prepared to make the sacrifices to make the small gains, and he was really, really good.
“He was fantastic, he really was. He spoke well with Jamie and he answered questions from all the players, from myself in trying to connect dealing with expectation, dealing with pressure, trying to find that extra per cent or two per cent to make the difference and we have carried our relationship on.
“I am planning to go down to London hopefully to see him and Jamie, unfortunately not as Wimbledon champions this year, and speak to all the Davis Cup team.
“It’s something that will hopefully come off and I am looking forward to it.”
And Stubbs hopes the bond between Hibs and the Murray brothers will continue to strengthen in future.
He said: Andy was very impressed by our gym and what we are doing. There’s a possibility with his schedule if he is ever in Scotland he knows he can come in and use the facilities.
“He doesn’t even have to make the phone call, he can just come in. It’s something we are looking to build with him, the relationship going forward.”
Would Stubbs fancy having a bit of a knock-up with Murray during a future visit? “I think I’d just be the whipping boy,” he grinned.