Alan Stubbs is adamant his slow-burning Hibs side can defy the odds as they go in search of their third consecutive league victory at Ibrox on Sunday.
The Easter Road side won both their Championship matches away to Rangers last season – 3-1 and 2-0 – but Mark Warburton’s new-look team have made a strong start to the current campaign, while Hibs are yet to spark into life.
A 6-2 Petrofac Training Cup defeat at home to Rangers last month, the shock opening-day league defeat at Dumbarton and the loss of talisman Scott Allan have all contrived to leave Hibs cast as clear underdogs for this weekend’s match, with some bookmakers pricing the Edinburgh club up at a whopping 5/1.
However, buoyed by their first league win of the season against Morton last weekend and with new faces like Liam Henderson and John McGinn providing some fresh zest, Stubbs expects his team to arrive at Ibrox with the same air of confidence that allowed them to take six points from six in their two games there last term.
“We’ll be going there with the same mindset as we had last season,” the head coach told the Evening News. “We want to go there and win the game. We have the ability to win the game. I don’t see any reason why we can’t win the game. Rangers have strengthened and built up a strong squad of players and we’re still in the midst of building up a strong squad of players. I fully believe in the group of players I have – there are players here who are only going to get stronger as the season goes on. It’s got the makings of a very good football match.”
Stubbs declined the opportunity to bite back after being told by Warburton on Wednesday night to “keep his mouth shut” when the Rangers manager took umbrage at his Hibs counterpart’s suggestion, in relation to the Ibrox club, that “it’s very easy when you’ve got money to spend to bring in much better players than what was there at the start.”
The head coach, meanwhile, confirmed yesterday’s Evening News story that Hibs are looking into the possibility of rescheduling their trip to Falkirk on September 5 as a result of international call-ups. McGinn and Jason Cummings were yesterday called into Ricky Sbragia’s Scotland Under-21 squad for a European Championship qualifier in Northern Ireland on the same day, while Scott Martin is already scheduled to be away in Bulgaria with Scotland Under-19s. Dominique Malonga is also in the frame to be called up by Congo, whose two matches clash with the Championship match against the Bairns.
“I’m delighted for John and Jason, it’s due reward for the ability they’ve shown and great recognition for them,” said Stubbs. “We’ll have to assess the situation with regard to the Falkirk game. We don’t know yet if others are going to get called up – namely Dominique – and we already have Scott Martin away with the 19s. That’s significantly hitting our squad so that’s something we’ll have to look at. We’ll make a decision over the next week or so.”
Hibs winger Alex Harris is in the frame for a loan move to Championship rivals Queen of the South. The 20-year-old has only featured in one of his team’s four competitive matches this season and has been told the door is open for him to move on in search of more regular action.
One man definitely leaving the club is head of sports science and fitness Craig Flannigan, who is working his notice after landing a new job. The former Clydebank, Queen of the South and Partick Thistle player was appointed to his role at Easter Road in summer 2014. Hibs have already advertised for his replacement.