Chris Dunlavy pro­files the ca­reer of the Rother­ham United man­ager

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Chris Dunlavy

ALAN STUBBS cer­tainly knew how to de­fend. He could ping a ball 60 yards to feet, ha­rangue men ten years his se­nior, quell world-class strik­ers.

His old Bolton boss, Bruce Rioch, even likened the 44-yearold Rother­ham man­ager to Bobby Moore. But, if there’s one thing Stubbs did best of all, it’s com­plain.

“Alan was with­out doubt the big­gest moaner in the world,” re­calls Mark Sea­graves, who met Stubbs at Bolton as a 16year-old and has re­mained a close friend ever since.

“If it was sunny, it was too sunny and if it was rain­ing, it was too wet. He was the same in the dress­ing room. Noth­ing was ever right.”


Mark Burchill, who played with Stubbs at Celtic, de­scribed him as ‘crab­bit’, Scot­tish slang for dour and mis­er­able.

“He was the most crab­bit guy I ever played with,” said the 36year-old. “He hated los­ing and you’d never hear the end of it if he did.

“We used to go away with Celtic and play snooker or ta­ble tennis at the ho­tel and he would go com­pletely men­tal if he didn’t win. Ev­ery train­ing ses­sion you’d get an ear-bash­ing.”

Owen Coyle, an­other Burn­den Park con­tem­po­rary, re­calls a man who “used to mump and moan about ev­ery­thing.”

Yet, it was those grouches and gripes that would prove the mak­ing of the man from Kirkby on Mersey­side.

Re­jected by boy­hood he­roes Ever­ton at 13, Stubbs found salvation at Bolton. At first, he and the other scousers would take the train to Burn­den Park, hid­ing in toi­lets to avoid pay­ing a fare.

Later, he and Ja­son McA­teer would hitch a lift with Sea­graves. Then 23, the de­fender lis­tened to the litany of com­plaints and re­alised he was deal­ing with a fu­ture star.

“I used to make them pay petrol money and ob­vi­ously Alan com­plained about that!” re­calls Sea­graves. “But what I quickly re­alised was that his grip­ing was about stan­dards, about a de­sire to im­prove and de­mand­ing the same from every­body else.

“I ad­mired the fact he didn’t just moan at the guys his own age. He was never shy of also hav­ing a go at the older guys if he felt we weren’t giv­ing our all. It was all for the ben­e­fit of the team.” Ap­pointed cap­tain by Rioch at just 22, those qual­i­ties would prove in­valu­able to a host of man­agers over the years. To Rioch, whose side fought their way from League One to the Pre­mier League via a Wem­b­ley Cup fi­nal. “Although he was young, he was our cap­tain and a true leader,’ re­called cen­tre-back part­ner Mixu Paate­lainen. “He was a won­der­ful player, a re­ally com­mand­ing cen­tre-half and also a great guy.” To Wim Jansen and Martin O’Neill, who saw Stubbs jus­tify his £3.5m move to Celtic in 1996 by end­ing Rangers’ run of nine-straight ti­tles and ush­er­ing in an era of Bhoys dom­i­nance. The cen­tre-back would even­tu­ally win two SPL ti­tles and two League Cups at Celtic Park.

“Stubbsy was the leader in a dress­ing room of lead­ers at Celtic,” said Burchill. “He took me un­der his wing and showed me what was needed to be a pro­fes­sional foot­baller and make it at the top level.”

To David Moyes, who of­fered Stubbs an emo­tional re­turn to Ever­ton in 2001 and was re­warded with six years of stel­lar ser­vice, cul­mi­nat­ing in qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the Cham­pi­ons League.

“Alan has al­ways had lead­er­ship qual­i­ties,” said the for­mer Manchester United boss. “We had some re­ally good years to­gether at Ever­ton, and he had a fine part­ner­ship in de­fence with Davie Weir.

“Alan was fan­tas­tic for me, not just on the park but in the dress­ing-room as well.”

In one cru­cial as­pect, how­ever, Stubbs was not crab­bit. In May 1999, he was play­ing a round of golf with Sea­graves when Celtic’s club doc­tor Roddy McDon­ald called to say he’d failed a rou­tine drug test. Fur­ther tests di­ag­nosed tes­tic­u­lar can­cer.

The dis­ease would blight his life for two years, an ini­tial re­cov­ery shat­tered by news of a re­lapse which re­quired se­ri­ous doses of chemo­ther­apy and surgery to re­move a tu­mour from his spine.

For wife Mandy and kids Heather and Sam, it was hell. But, on this oc­ca­sion, Stubbs clung to the be­lief that he’d re­cover.

McDon­ald re­calls. “I was sit­ting with him and his wife when he re­ceived the di­ag­no­sis and it struck me straight away how pos­i­tive he was. Know­ing the guy, you could see that it wasn’t a front. It was ab­so­lutely gen­uine.” Stubbs said com­ing through it felt like ‘be­ing given an­other life’.


Af­ter his re­tire­ment in 2008, Stubbs turned those prodi­gious lead­er­ship skills to youth foot­ball, join­ing Ever­ton’s coach­ing team un­der Moyes and help­ing to de­velop the likes of Ross Barkley and Shane Duffy.

That was fol­lowed in 2014 by a sec­ond move north, this time to Hiber­nian, who had just been rel­e­gated from the top flight.

Though pro­mo­tion was not se­cured, Stubbs was cred­ited with trim­ming a bloated, un­der­per­form­ing squad and shaking off a rep­u­ta­tion as big- game bot­tlers. His ver­bal spar­ring with Rangers ri­val Mark War­bur­ton also kept head­line writ­ers busy.

Now the scouser has swapped the pres­sure of res­ur­rect­ing a fallen gi­ant for the more earthy struggles of keep­ing a min­now afloat in the Cham­pi­onship. Early days have been a strug­gle, but Burchill is con­vinced his friend will pre­vail.

“Alan will be­come one of the very top man­agers in the Pre­mier League and it’s be­cause his phys­i­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties are matched only by his men­tal strength,” he said. “It’s his destiny. He’ll keep bat­tling and moan­ing to get where he wants to go. And, af­ter ev­ery­thing he has come through in life, he’ll never throw in the towel.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

CRAB­BIT, CRAB­BIT: Scot­tish team­mates gave him the de­scrip­tion for his dour at­ti­tude

HEY­DAY: Celtic’s Alan Stubbs lifts the Scot­tish Cup

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