Monday, 18 August 2014

What They Said: Stubbs, Hartley & Adams

The post-match interview is the avenue through which managers address the supporters and wider public in the wake of, say, a dominant performance or a total capitulation. Some, like well-trained politicians, choose to deflect questions as if they weren't asked while some can't seem to move beyond tired clich├ęs. There are those who honestly address the issues at hand, then there are those who refuse to face certain media outlets at all. 'What They Said' picks apart selected post-match interviews from the weekend in Scottish football.

Alan Stubbs

The Hibernian manager has now lost two from two against opposition they are widely expected to challenge for the Championship title this season - even though the Rangers match came in the Petrofac Training Cup. Both matches have been lost 2-1 and Hibernian have failed to lead at any point in either game, despite being awarded a penalty with the score at 0-0 in Sunday’s Edinburgh derby. Regardless, manager Alan Stubbs didn't “think the [final] scoreline [versus Hearts] reflected the game.”

To give him his due, the former Celtic defender appears to be instilling a more progressive style at Easter Road and has made some decent signings so far, most notably a proven Championship striker (who has netted twice already) as well as the first decent right-back at the club for around seven years. It is also true that his side have shown some “really encouraging signs” and have “come a long way in a short space of time.”

Stubbs had the better of Robbie Neilson in the opening exchanges on Sunday, pressing the home side so that they couldn't distribute to the defence, forcing a nervous-looking Jack Hamilton to kick poorly. He also had the better of Ally McCoist for large parts of their cup tie. In that match, Stubbs’s side dominated midfield due to McCoist believing that it would take three central defenders to nullify the threat of Farid El Alagui. Then, when McCoist switched to a back four, Stubbs made the correct decision to go with two strikers up against two centre-backs. Unfortunately, Danny Handling’s red card minutes later meant we never saw how Rangers would have coped, or how their manager would have responded.

However, even if they continue to perform yet find themselves unable to challenge, how long will these types of rationalisations wash with the Hibernian faithful? They are, by now, well-accustomed to managers claiming that their side played well despite the defeat, although this previously came from the mouths of more regressive managers in Pat Fenlon and, more recently, Terry Butcher. Even though Stubbs already seems to have more tactical nous than either of the two previous managers, the deficiencies in his squad are still there to be seen.

None more so than the mentality of some of his players, especially in the centre of midfield. During Sunday's derby, after a decent start to the match, captain Liam Craig lost his composure to miss a first-half penalty and never seemed to recover. He was even found projecting his own failings and indiscipline on to the Hearts players towards the end of a bad-tempered match.

And what about his midfield partner? Scott Robertson got booked for throwing himself into anyone he could find and was nutmegged for the opening goal. He then, like Craig, failed to regain his self-control and conceded a penalty which effectively lost his side the game and, further, brought about his dismissal. Perhaps this is what Stubbs was referring to when he spoke of “ill discipline” costing the team.

These are the players tasked with protecting a vulnerable defence, igniting attacks and being two of the more experienced heads to guide the younger players through matches. It appears, on Sunday’s evidence, that while they may have some attacking capabilities – more so in the case of Craig – they lack the required discipline and temperament to protect their back four and to leader others.

Paul Hartley

Dundee fought their way to a third successive league draw on Saturday versus Partick Thistle and have 17-year-old Craig Wighton to thank after scoring following his half-time introduction. The teenager won a new contract prior to his first top-flight goal and afterwards received some lavish praise from his manager.

The praise came seconds after manager Paul Hartley dared not to over-hype the youngster. “We don’t want to say too much because we know how good he is”, but the former Scotland international seemed to forget his own words instantly as he went on to describe Wighton as “…the future of our club.”

Dundee’s managing director John Nelms, as well as defender James McPake, have since further played-down the young striker's abilities, respectively describing Wighton as “an exceptional young talent with maturity beyond his years” and “…up there with the best”.

I wonder what they would have said had they over-hyped him.

Derek Adams

Finally, fresh after stating it did not matter how his side played in their 4-0 defeat to Partick Thistle on Wednesday, Derek Adams displayed perfectly the rampant hypocrisy found in just about any post-match interview. For the two goals conceded in a 2-1 home defeat to Kilmarnock at the weekend, Ross County have “…got to stop the cross…and the ball getting to the attackers for headers”, according to Adams. Yet for County’s own headed-goal - which came with just ten minutes remaining - was not only a “…good goal from Liam Boyce. It’s a good cross from Joe Cardle”.

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