Hibernian chairman Rod Petrie issued an appeal for patience and togetherness to the club’s furious supporters 24 hours after they staged a protest outside Easter Road following their 1-0 defeat by Kilmarnock, which confirmed their Premiership survival will hinge on a play-off against either Hamilton Academical or Falkirk.
Manager Terry Butcher had promised fans his players would treat each of their final batch of bottom-six fixtures as “cup finals”, but Hibs failed to win any of the five matches – mustering only two goals and one point. Butcher, who was appointed last November after his predecessor Pat Fenlon resigned, has managed only five wins from his 25 matches, four of which came in the former Inverness boss’s first seven games in charge, and the fans’ faith in the management and board has once again hit rock bottom.
Under-fire Petrie – who has been accused of under-investment in the squad since Hibs lifted the League Cup in 2007 and a series of failed managerial appointments – has already announced he will step down from the day-to-day running of the club next season, allowing newly-hired chief executive Leeann Dempster to assume control, and yesterday he promised the “wind of change will blow through the club next season”. He will, however, stay on as non-executive chairman.
In a statement released on the Hibernian website, Petrie said: “The league campaign is over. Eleventh in the table is a dismal outcome – well below what the club expects and well below the capabilities of the management team and the players. We are sorry not to have achieved better results. In ten days we have a play-off to win over two legs. The players and the manager need your support to make sure we take care of business on the field and finally put this season behind us. I have to ask for your patience and for your support for the team both on and off the pitch.
“2014 will be a year of change. It has already been announced that Leeann Dempster is joining us as chief executive. That means day-to-day responsibility for running of the club will pass to Leeann – a change which has been universally welcomed by supporters. There are other changes in the pipeline, too, which will see further radical change at your club both in the way that it organises itself and in the way in which it engages with the Hibernian Family and the wider community. Through the summer and into the start of next season the wind of change will blow through the club to enrich and reinvigorate it for the benefit of every supporter.”
Hibs finished in 11th spot, allowing them a second chance of escape via the two-leg play-off, but they would have finished 12th had it not been for the 15-point deduction Hearts received for going into administration.
Speaking after the defeat by Kilmarnock, their eighth defeat in their closing nine league fixtures, Butcher said: “I’m devastated because we put a lot of effort into the game again and made chances and just haven’t put the ball in the back of the net. It’s just the way things have gone.
“There’s been a lot of gloom and doom. We’ve two games left against fresh opposition. We’ve got to pick ourselves up. We know our problems, we know our faults, we will work at that, but we have two opportunities to rectify a lot of the wrongs we have had this year. But it’s something we have to do because we are fighting for survival.”