Rotherham United to build from position of strength, says Alan Stubbs

ALAN STUBBS may have a fair bit of business to attend to in his in-tray at new club Rotherham United, but it is a breeze compared to this time two years ago.

Leon Best left Rotherham United last night

Back in the early summer of 2014, the Merseysider would have been forgiven for thinking what he had let himself in for after being installed as the new boss at Hibernian, with the club coming to terms with the shock of relegation from the Scottish Premiership for the first time in 15 years.

Stubbs was left to pick up the pieces with a squad that was not exactly fit for purpose and devoid of real assets – and while his two years in Edinburgh did not bring a cherished-for return to the top flight, he did leave Easter Road with the legacy of the club being in a lot healthier position than they were when he arrived.

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Now the 44-year-old finds himself back south at Rotherham and while a fair bit of squad revamping is likely during the close-season, it is not exactly to the same extent as the surgery which was required at Hibs that summer.

But nevertheless, the former Everton and Celtic defender has work to do – and was due to speak yesterday with out-of-contract players Kirk Broadfoot, Matt Derbyshire, Richard Wood, Stephen Kelly and Leon Best – all offered fresh terms by previous manager Neil Warnock – before starting to map out the future.

Striker Best revealed last night he would not be signing the new deal.

With 11 players having been released at the end of last term, there are also clear recruitment areas for Stubbs to address, even accounting for the uncertainty regarding the aforementioned quintet.

But it is an area that he is certainly well versed in and he is ready for the task in hand.

Stubbs said: “I am not walking into the problems I walked into at Hibs. Here we have got 10 players who are contracted and five who have had offers from the previous manager. We will speak to them and they will know the decision one way or the other.”

On his restructuring at Hibs and desire to do something similar at the New York Stadium, Stubbs – who cut his coaching teeth with the youth team at Goodison Park – added: “When I walked into Hibs, we did not really have too many assets. We did not really have too many players, to be honest.

“I would like to think I have left the club in a much better state of health. We have brought in some young players who became assets to the football club.

“From nothing, there are now potentially £3m or £4m worth of assets that they could sell if they wanted to. That is what we want to do here.

“We want to bring young players in. We want to give them a platform to play and develop and become better, and then in the long run the club can then sell them on for a healthy profit.

“In order for any club to prosper, that is what you must do.

“There is a good nucleus of the squad to work with. We will see what happens with the ones who have been offered contracts; with the rest it gives me a chance to really put my stamp on the team.”
Stubbs left his old club in the wake of them lifting the Scottish Cup for the first time in their 114-year history, with some, from the outside at least, perceiving his decision to quit Hibs for a Championship club who have periodically flirted with relegation for the past two seasons – and a are not exactly one of the division’s power-brokers – to be slightly odd.

Moreso with Hibs able to secure Europa League football if they progress through qualifiers. Begging to differ, Stubbs said: “I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. There is no better situation than leaving a club on a high. I feel as if even if I had have stayed and we ended up winning promotion next season, it still would not have had the same affect that the Scottish Cup would have. I feel as if I can certainly hold my head high.”

Stubbs may put a premium upon shrewd recruitment, but the players who are already at Rotherham can rest assured that man-management and the personal touch is also a big facet of his managerial credo.

Players will be kept in the loop with the ex-centre-half’s maxim being that he will handle players as he wished to be treated during his own stellar career.

He added: “I have had a chat with Lee (Frecklington) already. 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. I need to improve them, I didn’t stop improving until I retired.

“It might sound crazy, but at 33, 34, I was still doing stuff with David Moyes on the training pitch that I did not think I would ever be doing and that is what I want to do with the players.”