Alan STUBBS believes standards are higher than ever at Hibs as a result of the squad’s increased strength in depth.
Jordon Forster, James Keatings, Islam Feruz, Fraser Fyvie, Farid El Alagui and Adam Eckersley have all been returned to training over the past couple of weeks following injury lay-offs and are pressing for inclusion in the matchday 18 for tomorrow’s Championship match at home to Dumbarton. Stubbs has been able to field a largely settled side during an impressive run of six wins from seven games in which only one goal has been conceded. However, he detects the bar being raised even higher at East Mains this week as those returning from injury put pressure on the players who have been in the starting XI for most of the season.
“It’s great that we’re getting all the players back,” he told the Evening News. “It provides extra competition for places and when you’ve got that it brings a real cutting edge amongst them. I saw it in training today – there was a real edge to it. That’s the first time I’ve seen that for a number of weeks. The boys know that if they’re not performing now, their place will come under threat because there are players just as good as them waiting in the wings. It’s really good at this moment in time.”
Stubbs believes the strength of Hibs’ squad was highlighted a fortnight ago when Liam Fontaine dropped out of the trip to Queen of the South after suffering back spasms and Darren McGregor, Rangers’ player of the year last season, stepped in to help secure a 3-0 win. Fontaine, who had been an ever-present until that point, is available to return tomorrow.
“That’s the ideal scenario of having a really strong squad,” said Stubbs. “When something like that happens and Fonts gets back spasms, it’s great to have real quality to come in so that the momentum doesn’t alter and the performances stay to a really high level.”
Meanwhile, English striker Josh Walker is training with Hibs in order to keep fit ahead of his return to India in the winter. The 26-year-old former Middlesbrough, Watford and Scunthorpe player, who had a spell on loan at Aberdeen in 2008, is contracted to Bengaluru, whose I-League campaign begins in January. Former Easter Road striker Derek Riordan is also still using the facilities at East Mains.