Alan Stubbs has insisted Hibs can win promotion, claiming the Easter Road side should be at least nine points better off than they are today.
While admitting he would dearly love to re-enter the top flight of Scottish football after taking the Championship title, Stubbs conceded it would be difficult to overhaul table-topping Capital rivals Hearts – presently 16 points clear of his side – although he believes Robbie Neilson’s outfit can still be caught.
Predicting that the obvious improvement shown at Hibs since the start of the season will continue into the second half of the campaign, Stubbs said: “I honestly think we should be at least nine points better then we are, I really do.
“From some of the games we have not taken points that we should have done, I feel we are a nine-points-better team.
“But the most pleasing thing for me is I feel we are improving. We are getting a head of steam up. I think the players really believe in everything we are doing and I think they feel the strongest they have felt for a long time. Physically and mentally they are very fit and when you have got that sometimes it can make my job a lot easier.”
Asked if he believed Hibs can regain the nine “dropped” points, the head coach replied: “If I were to say we have done fantastically and have been great then I would not be saying the right thing because if we were fantastic and great then I would say we should be top of the league. We have probably crept into that seven out of ten category but I want a higher score than that come the end of the season.
“I believe we can get promotion. I am not going to sit on the fence, I honestly believe we can get promotion because there’s two teams that can go up and I hope that we are one of them.”
While a play-off place would appear the most promising route for Hibs, Stubbs revealed that while it will be difficult, he believes Hearts, despite their commanding position, remain “catchable.”
He said: “I would like to be going up as champions, there’s no denying that. I think Hearts have done great up to now. They have been very impressive, their start has been enviable, what every team would have wanted. I’m not going to lie, but we have to keep chasing them.
“I think the teams below them have at times helped them because of their results but they have carried on, kept winning, kept focusing and they have been very impressive.”
However, Stubbs, who hopes to cast an eye over American striker Jack McBean next week as he prepares to strengthen his squad again in the January transfer window, insisted Hearts aren’t yet out of sight. He said: “They can be caught. It’s going to be difficult because of what has happened but they can definitely be caught.
“I would presume that they will strengthen in January as well so we will all be in the same boat.”