Rotherham United: Stubbs shows qualities to be Millers' leading man

Maybe it's just natural.

Thursday, 2nd June 2016, 6:24 pm
Updated Sunday, 5th June 2016, 7:03 pm
New Millers boss Alan Stubbs

Maybe he learned it as the kid captain of Bolton Wanderers.

Maybe he honed it on European battlefields as the skipper of Celtic or in the hotbed of the Premier League wearing the Everton armband.

Alan Stubbs and chairman Tony Stewart

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Whatever, Alan Stubbs has authority.

He made his bow as the new manager of Rotherham United at a busy press conference in the boardroom high up in AESSEAL New York Stadium.

As the snappers snapped, as video cameras and live Facebook streams bore in on him, as the questions came from a variety of angles, the 44-year-old took it all in the rangy stride fans of a certain age will remember from his playing days.

He was calm. He dodged nothing. His answers were given in a controlled, deliberate way. And he showed that whatever he might lack in Championship experience he makes up for with ambition.

Alan Stubbs, Tony Stewart and assistant manager John Doolan

As far as debuts go, this was an impressive one.

Unprompted, he mentioned the play-offs. The Millers have avoided relegation in the second tier for two years. Their new boss, who has signed a three-year deal after leaving Hibernian, is clearly looking for more next season.

“We want to be moving up the table and, ultimately, be around the play-offs come the end of the season,” he said. “It has to be the aim.”

“The Championship is on the television all the time. The coverage of it ... you’re never far away from it. It’s not far off the Premier League.

“You only have to look at the end of the season and the coverage that the play-offs get. People might say that my knowledge of the Championship may not be strong. My knowledge of Scottish football wasn’t strong and I’ve done okay there.

“The best managers in the world coming to the Premier League don’t have a knowledge of the Premier League. It’s about how you adapt and how you hit the ground running.

“The most important thing is recruitment. One thing I do know is that I’ve got a good eye for a player and I feel as if I know the calibre and the quality of the players I want to bring to the football club.”

Owner Tony Stewart, who paid Hibs compensation to land his man when other candidates to replace Neil Warnock weren’t quite was he was looking for, called Stubbs “a leader”.

After the hubbub of the main press conference, Stubbs sat in a quiet corner with a small group of local press men unwittingly proving his chairman’s point.

He spoke of morality, decency, the importance of being respected by the people who work for you, doing the right thing, behaving the proper way.

Five Rotherham players are out of contract and have been offered new terms by the previous regime. Stubbs may not want them all, but they’ll be informed of that before we are. And they’ll be told quickly because the Liverpudlian believes that’s the fairest thing to do.

Maybe it says something about his character that John Doolan is the man he took to Scotland as his first-team coach and has brought back south of the border as his assistant manager. Doolan has served his dues in the professional game. He’s also a friend of Stubbs from childhood.

It certainly says something about him that leaving the Scottish Championship club on good terms means so much to him.

At New York, a red-and-white club-issue tie was the order of the day and the only thing to touch his lips was a glass of water. But only 12 days ago his colours had been green and white and he was kissing the Scottish FA Cup at a euphoric Hampden Park after delivering Hibs’ first major silverware in 114 years.

Alan Stubbs and chairman Tony Stewart

“I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. There is no better situation than leaving the club on a high,” he reflected.

“I feel that even if I’d have stayed and we ended up winning promotion next season, it still wouldn’t have had the same affect that the Scottish Cup has had.

“I feel as if I can certainly hold my head high. You only have to look at the response of so many people, I have had so many good wishes from fans, players at the club, staff wishing me all the best.

“Thankfully, they weren’t all getting me out of the door as quickly as possible, so it means they must have a little bit of respect for me.”

With one challenge met, he couldn’t resist another when the Millers made their move and asked the Edinburgh outfit for permission to speak with him.

“I’ve had two really good years at Hibs and it wasn’t an easy decision to make on the back of what we achieved at the end of the season,” he said.

“But I felt that the opportunity at this club was one that I couldn’t refuse. I’m coming to the Championship and people say it is a really tough league, but I see it as a fantastic league and a really exciting league. That doesn’t daunt me or faze me and I’m really looking forward to the challenge ahead.

“I like to work very closely with my players. I like them to trust me, which I am sure they will do. I was a player once myself. I think man-management is a huge thing in football now and I will do whatever I can for them in order to make them better.”

Finally, he stood up, called away by interviews elsewhere. At close quarters, he looked every inch the imposing centre-half who spent most of his days at the top.

The strong nose, bent by a 19-year playing career, belied contests of old when no quarter was asked or given. His will showed no hint of bending.

“The plan has always been to be the best that I can,” he said. “From the moment I got into management, I’ve wanted to manage at the very highest level.

“I was impressed by what the chairman has to say, what his vision is for the club. His ambitions fitted in with my ambitions. I’m delighted to be here.

“I’d like to see us certainly in the top 10 and pushing for a play-off place, and I think that tells you everything about my discussions with the chairman.”

Time will tell if that lofty aim can be achieved. Supporters can only hope their club’s prospects are like the new man himself.


Alan Stubbs, Tony Stewart and assistant manager John Doolan