Hibs boss Alan Stubs today insisted the decision not to have his players mount a guard of honour as champions Hearts take to the pitch at Easter Road tomorrow was based on safety and not a lack of respect for their Capital rivals’ achievement.
And, the head coach claimed, had the tables been turned, he wouldn’t have expected such a tribute at Tynecastle. He also pointed out that he had phoned Robbie Neilson the morning after Hearts had won the league to offer his congratulations while his players had admitted on several occasions that the Jambos have been the best team.
While Queen of the South, Rangers and Alloa Athletic have all offered Hearts such an honour since they clinched the title, Stubbs was adamant that given the tinderbox atmosphere at a derby, it wasn’t the right thing to do.
He said: “The reason why we decided against it is because there are two sets of rival fans. It’s a derby, there’s going to be a lot animosity. You are going to have one set of fans that will be jovial because they’ve won the league, you’ll have one that are not going to be happy about that.
“The most important things is the safety of the fans and that’s the main reason we’ve done it. It’s a derby and it means a lot to both sets of fans. For it to be put across as a lack of respect is a lack of respect for both clubs and the consequences it could have made.”
Stubbs was clearly irked at the decision being portrayed as a snub to Hearts, saying: “I think we have to be sensible about how we write things sometimes. It hasn’t been reported why this is being done and what he consequences could be.
“Every club is different and the one thing I feel we have been towards Hearts is respectful. I spoke to Robbie on Thursday, we’ve got a real respect among each other. There’s a lot of respect between the two teams. We can’t let this get out of control for the reasons we’ve done it. We’ve seen silly things happen over the years and we don’t want to get into that state because of a guard of honour.
“If I won the league and we were at Tynecastle I wouldn’t expect one. We don’t turn around and say because one team has done it, every other team has to. I wouldn’t expect it. It only takes one person. Before you know it, you’ve got a situation on your hands that could have been prevented. We want the derby to be spoken about for the right reasons – it only takes one idiot.”
Stubbs was adamant what he clearly feels has been a trumped-up story shouldn’t be allowed to cloud the occasion, claiming the three previous derbies this season have produced the football the fans want to see.
And although Hearts go into the final derby of the season 26 points ahead, he argued that each of the matches between the clubs has been much closer than that statistic might suggest.
Stubbs said: “I’m not too sure whether the penalty at Tynecastle was a game-changer, but it was an important moment. Hearts got a 2-0 lead and we were fighting an uphill battle. We got back into the game, but it was too late. I thought we played well in the game at Tynecastle when we drew. I think if anything we just shaded it and the one at Easter Road was the same. But I want us to perform and get the three points, not perform and get a draw.”
Stubbs expects midfielders Dylan McGeouch and Scott Robertson to be fit for tomorrow, but defenders David Gray and Keith Watson are out with hamstring injuries.