On A day when Hearts manager Gary Locke revealed his players were turning to a pastor for guidance, it emerged that his counterpart across the city at Hibernian relied on a less divine source of inspiration last weekend.
Terry Butcher’s pre-match Edinburgh derby plan involved inviting chairman Rod Petrie to the East Mains training ground last Saturday, as Hibs prepared for their next test in a series of games on which their top-flight future hinges. Although knowing he will be ultimately judged on results, Butcher was keen to let Petrie see what goes on during preparations for games. “They employ me and they don’t see how I work,” he explained.
As a number of managers have been glad to learn, Petrie is not a chairman who interferes in team matters. He tends to keep his distance from East Mains. According to Butcher, he has never watched a training session before. But at Butcher’s insistence he was present last weekend as Hibs were being put through their final paces ahead of Sunday’s match with Hearts, which they lost 2-1. Petrie was also urged by Butcher to say a few words to the players, and, put on the spot, the chairman did just that, giving what the manager described as a “ra ra speech”. In Rod, he trusted.
“I instigated it,” said Butcher, when asked if he was comfortable with the chairman being present on the eve of such a vital clash. “He came in and talked to the players.”
The visit is given further relevance because of the news that has since emerged about Leeann Dempster, who will take up the role of chief executive in June. Petrie, who has been operating as interim chief executive as well as chairman since Scott Lindsay stepped down two years ago, is preparing to take a step back from day-to-day activities at the club. Perhaps knowledge that he will have few other opportunities in the future convinced Petrie to agree to Butcher’s request to break this habit of keeping well away from training.
“The chairman came down and watched training – which I don’t think he has ever done before,” said Butcher. “I invited him down. It wasn’t at his instigation. I invited him.
“I think we will try and do that more with directors and supporters next year and let people see what the players do and how we actually go about our work, because they employ me but they don’t see how I work. They see it on a Saturday but they do not see day-to-day work, and what we do. So I thought it was good of the chairman to come down. And it shows we are all in it together, and it showed a great unity, I felt.”
After they had watched a DVD of games involving Hearts, Butcher invited Petrie if he wanted to say something. The chairman offered what were described by Butcher as some “very good” words. “I just felt it was the right thing to do,” added the manager. “The chairman has been great, he has said: do you need this, do you need that? He has been really supportive. And he has really helped me.”
Butcher agreed that he wanted more than anything to put a “full stop” to Hibs’ current run, which now stands at six consecutive defeats. It leaves the club precariously positioned near the relegation-play off place, ahead of another crucial match at Easter Road tomorrow afternoon, against Partick Thistle.
“I would put more than a full stop to it if I can,” he grimaced. “You just want to stop it. But you stop it by putting on a performance that gives you a chance to win the game. Last week we shot ourselves in the foot by giving away two goals. We did not give ourselves a chance of winning the game, though in a football sense we did. But yes, you want to put a full stop to it – or a blockade, a hand grenade, or anything!”
Butcher has managed to take some succour from the defeat to Hearts. Although the result was not what anyone at the club wanted, he said he gained encouragement from the performance, and the support from the fans. It is likely the team sent out tomorrow will bear a close resemblance to the one that featured v Hearts, although one change is guaranteed due to Jordon Forster’s suspension.
“People say it was only Hearts and they are relegated but Hearts always raise their game against Hibs, and Hearts have beaten some pretty decent sides in recent weeks as well,” said Butcher. “We did well against a team that has beaten Partick Thistle so we can draw confidence from that. At this stage of the season, and with the run we are on, we will grab at any small comfort to get us going.”
Butcher welcomed the appointment of Dempster, who joins in the summer after completing the season with Motherwell, her current employers. However, he knows that there is much to do in order to provide the incoming chief executive with the comfort of knowing she is arriving at a top-flight club.
“I cannot speak to her now, because she is still employed by Motherwell,” explained Butcher. “But things are not on hold. We have players lined up and plans in progress. Things are progressing and have been on-going for quite some time.
“I am pleased with the work we have done for next season. It is not on hold because we are thinking about the Premiership for next season, which we have to do. But the majority of the focus is on the next three matches, particularly this next one.
“She brings something new, something different, and we will develop in other avenues, which is part of her remit. But there are still games to win and get points from.”
BT Sport Q&A: Rangers | Hibs | Neil Lennon
THIS week’s BT Sport video Q&A looks at whether Rangers fans will buy season tickets and if the club’s supporters will force a change of ownership.
The form of Hibs under Terry Butcher is also examined following the Easter Road side’s derby defeat while the future of Neil Lennon is also considered following the announcement that his assistant Johan Mjallby is to depart at the end of the season.
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