Alan Stubbs today admitted finishing third in the Championship table “wouldn’t be the end of the world”, but urged his players to go one better by clinching second place.
Hibs and Rangers fans face a nail-biting afternoon at Falkirk and Tynecastle respectively tomorrow, the Easter Road side knowing victory will see them finish runners-up to champions Hearts and so render the result in Gorgie irrelevant. But Stubbs is equally aware his players can’t afford a slip-up against the Bairns, who have proved to be Hibs’ bogey team this season, winning twice in the league and knocking the Capital club out of the Scottish Cup only a fortnight ago.
However, while second place means two fewer play-off games to be negotiated, Stubbs insisted the main objective of just having a stab at promotion had already been achieved.
The head coach said: “At the end of the day finishing third is not the end of the world. We have to make this point. We would like to finish in second but if, for whatever reason, it does not happen we have still achieved the main aim and that was to finish in the play-offs.
“We don’t want to let it slip, but if it does then we knew the potential outcome from day one, we knew it was potentially going to be six games or potentially four games, so from that point of view there’s no difference.” While Stubbs and his backroom staff won’t actively try to monitor what is happening at Tynecastle, the former Celtic and Everton defender admitted the 3500 Hibs fans who are travelling to Westfield will undoubtedly keep everyone abreast as to exactly how that game is unfolding.
And regardless of whether they learn Rangers are losing, winning or drawing, his players will be under orders to concentrate on their own match.
He said: “Our goal is to try to get three points and take that [Tynecastle] out of the equation. If news does come through that Rangers are ahead and our game is 0-0 then I would expect a positive reaction from the players and that the fans will get behind the team even more.”
A win tomorrow would leave Stubbs with 18 days before his side would again be in action, away to either Queen of the South or Rangers, time he insisted that would be put to good use. He said: “We’d look to fill those days with a programme that will hopefully give us the best opportunity to have the players ready for that game on the 20th.”