TERRY Butcher is too long in the tooth to believe that sorting out all of Hibs’ ills will be a piece of cake, but he felt it was as good a way as any to begin the process.
Armed with some of the tasty treats, he held a meeting with his squad at the beginning of the week, trading the nibbles for some insight into how the players he inherited from Pat Fenlon feel they can maximise their rewards throughout what is left of the season.
He described the session as both honest and good humoured and said it served to strengthen his belief that the current players are capable of delivering on the pitch. Buoyant after a couple of weeks with no game but plenty of time to chat with his new charges and assess them on the training pitch, Butcher says he has also been able to use the time to give the players a few days off to clear their heads after the recent turmoil, nurse wounded egos and then return with a sense of purpose.
“We still have an open mind about virtually all of them, because they are so keen to impress,” Butcher said. “I know I will disappoint a lot of players when I select my team for St Mirren [on Saturday] because there will be ones who miss out, but everyone still has a chance.”
An opportunity in the long term but, short term, Butcher says he has all but decided which 11 players will line up for his first game at the helm.
“But the ones in the team are going to have to work hard to stay in the team,” he added. “There is great quality here and they have shown that already. The training sessions are improving all the time.
“When we sat down in the dressing room, which can be a very intimidating place, we got them to speak up and they were very good. There’s a fair bit of humour in there. The ones who volunteered to speak, they were very good. They know what they have to do, they are clever boys and they know how they have to play and what is demanded of them and they want to do it.
“It’s all about what’s going to happen now. It was nothing about the past. The past is gone and we can’t change that. It wasn’t a clear the air, it was just some honesty from the players and us hearing what they want to do and how high they want to finish.”
The more salubrious setting for training, the offices, the facilities, all have Butcher cooing. A guy who says that, even as a treble-winning player at Rangers, he had to pack away goalposts to prevent locals cutting them up for scrap and sprint to retrieve any ball which flew over a fence to stop it being nicked, he has never experienced training facilities like Hibs’.
“This is what you work for in a way through all the years. To have this is fantastic,” explained the manager. “It’s just a dream, every day’s a dream for me. It’s fantastic. I hope there are no nightmares around the corner, but I’m living the dream.”
Even the cake served is a sign of how he and his assistant Maurice Malpas have moved on to what they believe could be bigger and better things with the capital side. “I bought the cakes, but I’m sending the bill in to [chairman] Mr Petrie. It was Tesco cakes at Caley Thistle but it’s now Marks & Spencer!”
If Butcher has had to get used to a few changes so, too, have the players as he seeks to make an imprint on how the football side of things tick, on and off the pitch.
“We’ve got the young ones eating with the old ones now and just changed things a little bit,” he said. “I’ve been asked if it’s about stamping your mark on the club, but we’ve just changed one or two little things. Some of it is like how we used to do it at Inverness and Motherwell, and it’s a little bit of how they do it here. It’s just getting the routines in place. That has been the hardest part, because everything is new and fresh.
“It’s just things like eating, timings, coming in at lunchtime on a Monday because players are travelling. It’s just little subtle changes, little things with the coaches. But the big thing is on the pitch because Maurice is a tremendous coach. It’s little things they maybe haven’t seen before and that stimulates players as well.
“The team spirit is there, I don’t see any problems with that at all. I see no cliques, no bad apples, no-one not trying. I’ve been really surprised by that. I thought there might be a bit of disharmony but there has been nothing. There is certainly enough ability there to pick up points and win matches. I think you can lose confidence quickly but I think you can build it back up just as quickly with good passing, movement, tackles, headers.
“I must say, the training sessions have been terrific, up to the tempo we had at Caley Thistle, which is what we want – nothing less than that. If they can take that on to the pitch then we’re off to a flier.”