ALAN Stubbs has Roberto Martinez to thank for keeping his focus trained on the goal of becoming a manager when temptation crept in to settle for second best.
Hibernian's new head coach was being seriously considered for an assistant's post at a major English Championship club at the turn of the year. Having only months earlier been pipped by Martinez to the manager's role at Everton, the former Celtic defender could have been forgiven for grasping the first opportunity that came his way.
However, Martinez shared Stubbs' belief that he was a manager in waiting and persuaded the 42-year-old to bide his time.
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"I have had a few interviews for different roles," Stubbs said. "I had an interview for an assistant manager's job at a top Championship club and decided against it because I wanted to be a No 1.
"I spoke to Roberto about that when I got the interview. I said 'gaffer, I have an interview for an assistant's job. I'd like to know what your thoughts are and any advice you have'.
"He said, 'it's not for you'. Those were his first words. He said 'you are a No 1; you are your own man and you will be a top manager one day'.
"That reinforced my beliefs and I thought, 'yeah, you're right'. I went for the interview, but it was more to stand me in good stead for when the right opportunity came up."
Stubbs can lay claim to some of the credit for the prodigious development of the emerging talents of new England internationals Ross Barkley and John Stones in his former role coach of as Everton's under-21s. Others such as Seamus Coleman have had Stubbs as their mentor over the last six years.
However, it is not only the players who have grown in a second-string set-up so professional Stubbs believes it would eclipse many first-team operations north of the border.
"This is my first opportunity in management, but it's not my first opportunity in an environment which is competitive," he said, countering any accusations of inexperience. "I was around the first team at Everton for a number of years so I know what happens and exactly how the management side of it works. I know what you have to do, how to analyse games and what is involved.
"With the Everton under-21s, I had a management structure that was close to what you will have in top-level football. I had my own physio, my own strengthening and conditioning coach, my own kitman and my own assistant. I had more than a lot of clubs in Scotland would have.
"That's not me being disrespectful to clubs here, but Roberto wanted me to have my own group within the group."
Stubbs talked this week of calling in "favours" he has built up across his career as he takes charge at Easter Road. A congratulatory phone call from Kenny Dalglish and the friendship of David Moyes are indications of the regard in which he is held within football.
As for the maelstrom of acrimony that has swirled around Easter Road following the ignominy of Hibs' relegation from the Premiership last month, much of it directed towards chairman Rod Petrie, two bouts of testicular cancer have taught Stubbs how to deal with adversity.
Leeann Dempster, who has taken over the chief executive's role from the embattled Petrie, gave an insight into the change taking place in the Hibs hierarchy that some fans refuse to believe will ever be fully implemented.
Asked about the ongoing row over Petrie's perceived influence on decision-marking, Dempster replied: "We have, may I say, more important things to deal with. We have a football club to run, we had a manager to recruit, and we have players to bring in for the new season.
"I know it will be a recurring theme and it's one I'm trying not to shirk, but Rod is the chairman. Rod recruited me and he recruited me for a reason, and for that reason he's let me get on with my job.
"That's pretty much how he and I discussed it before all of this happened and he's been true to his word. The truth is Alan has not met the chairman yet. The final decision [on the appointment] was absolutely mine, and it was me who took it to the board and made the recommendation. There was no push-back at all."