Former Hibs winger Michael Weir fears his old club will have a big job on their hands to replace Alan Stubbs should the in-demand head coach take up the opportunity to further his career in England.
The 44-year-old Liverpudlian is on the wanted list of both Rotherham United and Bolton Wanderers, and is also viewed as an outside contender for the vacancy at Blackburn Rovers.
Rotherham are the red-hot favourites to land Hibs’ Scottish Cup-winning boss after he emerged as their clear No.1 target at the end of last week. The English Championship club made an official approach to Easter Road chief executive Leeann Dempster on Friday and are hopeful of speaking to Stubbs imminently with a view to appointing him this week.
Weir, who made more than 200 appearances for Hibs between 1984 and 1996, has been hugely impressed with Stubbs’ work in galvanising the club since he took over in the immediate aftermath of relegation from the Premiership two years ago, and the Evening News columnist believes the popular Scouser will leave big shoes to fill if he chooses to depart.
“Alan would be a hard man to replace,” said Weir. “He’s turned the club round since he’s been here, and people in England are clearly taking notice. He realised we needed a freshness and he’s brought in a lot of good, young players. He’s undoubtedly pushed the club on.
“A number of players have said that he was a big factor in them coming to the club. It would be really tough to get someone in to continue the job he’s started. That’s football though – things change all the time. It’s very difficult to keep a manager who’s doing well, like Alan is, but hopefully he looks at it and decides there’s a real chance to build something here and make Hibs even better. I think another year here would help him as a manager and help the players and the team get stronger.”
Rotherham have also approached Coventry City for permission to speak to former Hibs boss Tony Mowbray, but Stubbs is their clear first choice to succeed Neil Warnock, who turned down the offer of a new contract after successfully keeping them in the Championship.
Rotherham hadn’t heard by teatime last night if their request had been successful but, if they are allowed to speak to the Easter Road head coach, the job is likely to be his if he wants it.
Stubbs still has a year on his contract at Easter Road, so compensation would have to be negotiated if he leaves. The former Bolton, Celtic and Everton defender was last night trading at 1/10 with Skybet to fill the Millers vacancy, with Mowbray, a popular Hibs manager in the mid-Noughties, second favourite at 3/1. Stubbs was also the 3/1 favourite for the job at Bolton, the club with which he started his playing career.
Although Rotherham will have one of the lowest budgets in next season’s Championship, Weir recognises why a move south would appeal to Stubbs, whose family have remained in England’s north west while he has been in Edinburgh over the last two years.
“I can see both sides of the coin,” said Weir, a Skol Cup winner with Hibs in 1991. “Alan’s an ambitious man who wants to go far in the game and England is the place to be if you want to further yourself, there’s no doubt about that. Sometimes when chances come along, you feel you’ve got to take them.
“I think another year at Hibs would do him the world of good in a managerial sense, but his family are in England, and family come first, so I totally understand why he might want to move.
I hope Hibs can get another year out of him but I wish him all the best whatever he decides.”