ALAN STUBBS has insisted he won’t shy away from making tough decisions as he admitted players well worth a place in tonight’s crucial Championship clash with Rangers will be left on the sidelines.
For virtually the first time this season, the Hibs head coach has his entire squad – apart from striker Farid El Alagui, who has started his comeback from a ruptured achilles tendon – at his disposal but able to name only 18 of them for the trip to Ibrox. Up front, Dominique Malonga has returned from international duty with Congo at the Africa Cup of Nations to find January arrivals Martin Boyle and Franck Dja Djedje battling along with Jason Cummings, who took over the mantle of top scorer in his absence, to lead the line. And it’s a scenario Stubbs has found replicated again in midfield and defence as he ponders the team he hopes will clock up a third-successive win over Rangers and leapfrog them into second place in the table.
The signing of Fraser Fyvie means seven players are battling for four places in midfield while, at the back, David Gray’s return from injury, allied to the arrival of Keith Watson has six chasing just four berths.
Although he’s delighted to have such options, Stubbs revealed he and his backroom staff have had to think long and hard before naming tonight’s team and substitutes. However, he was adamant choosing a side he believes capable of beating Rangers vastly outweighed any hurt feelings any individual might have at discovering he’s been left out.
He said: “There’s a real healthiness about the group at this moment. It bodes well for our run-in. We have quality options, which is most important. We have a good selection to pick from which, as manager, I want. I would rather be selecting from four than one so from that point of view it’s great.”
Stubbs agreed that given Hibs’ impressive run of form over the past few months, a question of loyalty to those players involved arose, but, he insisted: “My biggest loyalty is to the football club and getting a result. That will always be the over-riding factor. The players understand that. When you are trying to build something and be successful you have difficult decisions to make but it is not a problem for me.
“There won’t be easy decisions to make, but that’s what I am paid for. Everybody that has come in and played recently warrant a starting place. There’s no-one I can comfortably turn around to and say ‘he has not deserved to keep his place’.
“They have all done what I have asked of them and when you have done that and you are left out you are disappointed. But I wouldn’t expect anything else of them. They are all professional players. They have a pride and they all want to play. But we will make the decision on the eleven who are going to start and they will be a team we firmly believe is capable of getting a result.”