Scottish Daily Mail

Semi-final spot is key to Stubbs’ team plans


ALAN STUBBS says reaching the Scottish Cup semi-finals could be key to keeping the current Hibs squad together next term. Several of his key men are out of contract in the summer, including skipper Liam Craig, Lewis Stevenson, Scott Robertson, Fraser Fyvie, Keith Watson and Liam Fontaine. First-choice goalkeeper Mark Oxley and Dylan McGeouch, on loan from Hull and Celtic respective­ly, are also available on free transfers at the end of the current campaign as Hibs consider whether to make their stays permanent. With uncertaint­y over whether the club will be playing in the top flight or Championsh­ip next season, the budget remains in flux. But Stubbs acknowledg­es that booking a date at Hampden at the expense of visitors Berwick Rangers tomorrow could help tie down his top performers. He said: ‘If we can get through, from a budget point of view, it would certainly help. It will mean there is a good chance we can keep this squad together for next season. ‘I feel like I’m putting together a squad of players with a real chance to be successful here. ‘If possible we would like to get everything done very early, as we did in January. ‘If we are in the right position, we will do it as early as we can. However we have a budget and the further I can go in this competitio­n, the easier it will be to keep this squad in place.’ The wee Rangers arrive at Easter Road tomorrow as 17/1 underdogs, but Stubbs was keen to emphasise the work which has gone into ensuring his side do not succumb to an unforgivab­le Cup exit. ‘We will give Berwick the utmost respect,’ insisted the Hibs boss. ‘You only need to look at the dossier I have on my desk and the analysis we have on Berwick. We have extensive footage and reports from their last six matches. ‘There’s no one taking this game lightly. I won’t allow that to happen.’ With two lower-league sides guaranteed to be in the semis — three if Raith Rovers can stun Inverness this afternoon — the competitio­n is opening up as Hibs eye their third Scottish Cup Final in four seasons. Famously, they have not lifted the trophy since 1902 but Stubbs believes that should be an inspiratio­n and not a burden. ‘I was made aware of it from the first round,’ he said. ‘I’m not going to hide from it. ‘As long as we are in the competitio­n, we have a chance of putting it right. We still have three games to do that but you have to dream of winning the Cup and believe you can win it. Otherwise, what’s the point? ‘I don’t see it as a burden, it’s a chance to do something about a piece of history.’

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