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It's all one big love-in for Alan Stubbs

Alan Stubbs admits he has been showering his Hibernian players with love to ensure the boos raining down from the stands are consigned to history.

The manager inherited a squad whose confidence had been shattered as a result of relegation to the Championship following a play-off defeat to Hamilton. But after an encouraging pre-season and Petrofac Training Cup performance against Rangers on Tuesday night, Stubbs is confident they can begin their bid to bounce straight back to the Premiership at Easter Road tomorrow against Livingston.

Stubbs, who has added four fresh faces in the shape of David Gray, Farid El Alagui, Scott Allan and Mark Oxley to the squad, is adamant that the players were only lacking in belief, not quality.

He said: "If you have confident players you get confident performances. If you get players that are suffering from a lack of confidence, it can spread through the team. Then you have a team that sometimes doesn't know the wood from the trees.

"We all like an arm around our shoulder, we all like to be loved. That's why we've got wives or girlfriends, because more often than not they tell us.

"But if it needs me to tell one of the players that I love him, then I'll tell him I love him. If it means them getting me the result on a Saturday I'll tell them what they want to hear.

"In my style of management I want the players to be able to knock on my door if it's closed. If it's open, I want them to be able to walk straight in. I want them to be able to express something, and if it's nonsense, then I'll tell them."

Stubbs, meanwhile, has indicated that marksman Danny Handling's availability for next weekend's trip to city rivals Hearts influenced their decision not to appeal his dismissal against Rangers on Wednesday night.

The 20-year-old, who equalised at Ibrox, was shown a straight red card by referee John Beaton for bringing down David Templeton.

Handling misses tomorrow's league match and next season's opening Petrofac Training Cup clash should Hibs fail to gain promotion straight back to the top flight.

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