INVERNESS Caledonian Thistle have denied reports that Hibs have already agreed terms with Terry Butcher to make him their manager, but the Englishman is now a red-hot favourite to take over from Pat Fenlon at Easter Road.
Despite Hibs chairman Rod Petrie’s claims on Sunday that his board would “take their time” to identify and appoint a successor to Fenlon, who resigned on Friday, developments became fast-paced on Monday afternoon.
A report on BBC Scotland’s website shortly after 3pm seemed to suggest Hibs had agreed a deal with former England captain Butcher to lure him from the post he has held at the Caledonian Stadium for four years, but that was followed by an angry rebuttal within hours from the Inverness board.
However, BBC were standing staunchly by their story last night and while some bookmakers have already stopped taking bets on Butcher to be named the next Hibs manager, Paddy Power and Sky Bet slashed his odds to 1-5, with Kenny Shiels now 9-2.
Hibs and Inverness have a reputation for rarely conducting such business in the public eye and the timing of the story has come at an awkward juncture for two clubs who meet on league business at Easter Road on Saturday.
Inverness chairman Kenny Cameron said: “We are extremely unhappy about a story on the BBC Scotland website in relation to our manager. Wherever this has come from, it is completely untrue.
“There has been no approach to this club for Terry Butcher’s services and we look forward to him continuing the excellent job he has been doing in Inverness.
Speculation on managerial vacancies is, to an extent, inevitable.
“But to state as a fact something that is totally untrue is unworthy of BBC Scotland.”
Cameron confirmed that, after training yesterday, Butcher had assured the club chairman that he hadn’t spoken to any other club.
Hibernian also maintained that they were continuing their search for a new manager despite reports that Butcher had agreed personal terms. Sources close to the club yesterday indicated that no announcement was imminent amid widespread suggestions that Butcher had been sounded out by Easter Road chairman Petrie.
Butcher and Inverness have held discussions over a
extension beyond the end of the season. So far, nothing has been agreed between the two parties.
The 54-year-old has become a revered figure among fans since replacing Craig Brewster in January 2009 and despite the club’s relegation that season, Butcher guided the Highlanders straight back to the SPL. Having consolidated within the top flight, he hoisted the team to a first top six place – a club record fourth place finish. The Inverness side have also progressed to a second successive League Cup semi-final against Hearts, with Butcher having broken ground in the competition last season.
On Saturday evening after victory over Kilmarnock, Butcher branded the Hibs link as speculation and admitted Caledonian Thistle would be a very difficult club to leave. Butcher could not be contacted last night.
It has also been reported that Hibs legend John Brownlie – a key member or the swashbuckling team of the early 1970s – could form part of the backroom team under Butcher and current Caley No 2 Maurice Malpas.
Brownlie said he would be open to a return to Hibs as part of Butcher’s backroom team.
A former manager himself – who won promotions with Cowdenbeath and Arbroath – Brownlie worked as a coach alongside Butcher at Raith Rovers during the 1990s when current Hibs caretaker manager Jimmy Nicholl was in charge at Stark’s Park.
He now compiles dossiers on Caley’s opponents for Butcher. Brownlie said: “I have worked with Terry Butcher in the past at Raith Rovers and I have to say I was surprised to see my named linked to this.
“I do work for him just now, I do all his scouting for him in Scotland. I do his match reports for him so that’s the link I have with Terry just now. I’m certainly intrigued. We’ll see what happens but I will be intrigued. If something did happen, great. If not, then that’s the way it is.”
Caley are again punching above their weight in the Premiership – with Butcher leading the team into second place thanks to seven wins from their opening 11 matches.
Brownlie plays his part behind the scenes but acknowledges that Butcher, who turned down English Championship club Barnsley in January, is working wonders at the Caledonian Stadium.
He added: “Terry’s stock is continually rising with the work he is doing at Inverness, but I would say it will be difficult for him to leave there if he does get offered the Hibs job. It will be difficult because I know he really likes living up there.”
Butcher stepped into management at the age of 31 as player-boss at Coventry City before moving on to Sunderland. They were jobs which perhaps came too soon for him and the former Rangers defender enjoyed a significantly happier time after being appointed Motherwell manager in 2001. However, he was lured to Australia with Sydney FC in May 2006.
Brentford was the next managerial stop in summer 2007. He became a coach under George Burley during his disastrous spell in charge of Scotland before taking up his current position. For how much longer he is there remains to be seen.