Alan Stubbs has admitted Rangers are a better team than last season – but he’s still backing his Hibs side to shatter the Ibrox club’s unbeaten Championship run.
Rangers will arrive at Easter Road for tomorrow’s lunchtime start eight points ahead of the Capital outfit having won all 11 league games with many claiming Hibs must win if they are to retain any hope of taking the title and with it the one automatic promotion place.
But while insisting the outcome of this match won’t decide anything, Stubbs conceded he doesn’t want to see the gap separating the sides increase although he also believes his players are perfectly capable of trimming that advantage.
Revealing he’s been “buzzing” all week in anticipation of this showdown, the head coach said: “They are great games. Whenever you play in any big game you should savour it, embrace it, and you obviously want to win it. We want to get three points and, I’m not going to lie. I think we can get a result – in fact, I know we can.
“The players know they have to perform to their maximum to get a result and, the one thing as a coach I need to do, is believe in the players. They know I believe in them, and I think they believe they can get a result as well.”
Agreeing Rangers have moved forward under new boss Mark Warburton, Stubbs feels the fact his side is ten points better off than they were at this time last season is also indicative of progress at Easter Road.
He said: “They’re better. I’m not going to look like a clown and say they are not any better. They’ve changed in a lot of ways. They’ve brought in better players. They’ve brought in a new management who have hit the ground running and they’ve done very well. They’ve brought a different style of football to the club which it is fair to say a lot of the fans were wanting to see.
“And as a result of that, they’ve had a lot of success in the early part of the season.
“We’re ten points better off than we were last season so from that point of view, we must be doing something right compared to last season. We have certainly learned. We are a stronger squad, I don’t think there’s any denying that. And we’re a stronger squad than we were early on in the season.”
In fact so content is Stubbs with the squad he’s assembled he went as far as to state that if there was no January transfer window he wouldn’t be bothered, so happy is he with the group of players already at his disposal.
Asked how decisive he believes tomorrow could be and the implications of falling 11 points adrift, Stubbs replied: “These games have some sort of bearing on the eventual outcome but tomorrow, for me, is about three points. It’s still very early days but it’s a game we don’t want to contemplate losing. I never contemplate losing.
“It was 11 points for the last five or six weeks and we managed to bring it down to eight after the Falkirk game. We’ve had to contemplate that, it would be wrong of me to try to dismiss it. We don’t want the gap to get any bigger, that’s stating the obvious.
“We’ve not worried about the gap previously, we’ve worried about performances. We’ve focused on performances and because of that we’ve given ourselves a chance tomorrow to try and get a result against Rangers.”