HIBERNIAN are looking for their eighth manager in ten years following yesterday’s sacking of Terry Butcher after just seven months in charge.
Just over two weeks on from the club’s catastrophic relegation to the Championship, Butcher returned from holiday and met with new chief executive Leeann Dempster and chairman Rod Petrie on Monday, the outcome of which was a recommendation by Dempster to the board that the manager be relieved of his duties, which was unanimously agreed yesterday.
Hibs released a statement yesterday afternoon, in which Dempster, who only officially started her new role at the start of the month, expressed personal sadness at the decision and set out a bold objective to win next season’s Championship, which will also include Rangers and Edinburgh rivals Hearts. Dempster said: “I have to say that we all regret that this decision had to be made, but during conversation it became clear that a different approach was needed.
“Sadly, for a variety of reasons and perhaps including unfortunate timing, it hasn’t worked out for Terry here. That is disappointing for all concerned. I am genuinely saddened that we have had to take this tough decision. It may have taken longer than we all would have liked but I felt it was appropriate that we met properly and had a full discussion before any decision was made. Now we need to move forward and act to bring in a new manager with the aim of getting us promoted back to where Hibernian belongs, in the top league of Scottish football, from a uniquely competitive Championship.
“Our first aim must be to try to win the league and gain promotion automatically.
“The search now begins to find and appoint the next manager, and, while we will try to keep supporters updated regarding the process as much as we can, I know they will understand that we need to be professional in all that we do.”
Former captain Ian Murray, who is currently Dumbarton manager, has been installed as the early 6-4 favourite to be the next Hibs manager, followed in the betting by the likes of Owen Coyle, Stuart McCall and former Easter Road bosses Alex McLeish and Tony Mowbray.
Butcher left Inverness Caledonian Thistle to replace Pat Fenlon in November but, after a disastrous run of form during which the side won just once in their last 18 league games, his side were relegated after a penalty shoot-out loss to Hamilton in the Scottish Premiership play-off final on 25 May.
The defeat has sparked fury among the Hibs support, who have directed their ire at Petrie, who is viewed to have presided over a growing malaise at the club. Around 1,500 attended a rally outside Easter Road on Saturday calling for him to leave.
Dempster, the former Motherwell CEO, who was hired by Petrie to take over day-to-running of the club, faced the media in a press conference at Easter Road yesterday to expand on the decision to axe Butcher.
“I spent some time with Terry yesterday [Monday] and we had a pretty direct and honest conversation,” she explained. “We decided to leave it at that last night, then had a board meeting this morning and we took a unanimous decision that Terry would leave the club.
“We felt it was time for a fresh approach. We’ve got a big challenge ahead of us. We had a discussion, as boards do. I reflected the nature of the discussions [with Butcher] and we took a decision. And it was a unanimous one.
“It’s really unfortunate and I’m very saddened by it, if I’m perfectly honest. It absolutely wasn’t the first task I had in mind in terms of coming to the football club. But we can’t look back, we have to look forward.
“Terry, as you know, is a real professional and he took it very well and professionally, as you would expect. Obviously, he’s disappointed. We’re disappointed. But you have to give him credit, he took it as well as could be expected.”
Asked whether Butcher had perhaps not been given enough time to build his own team at the club, the chief executive replied: “That’s one perspective. We’ve taken a different perspective. I guess you live and die on these decisions. Time will tell. We’ve had a number of managers of late and this is another in and out, as it were. Hopefully, we can stop this pattern. That’s my ideal.”
Dempster hinted that Butcher had wanted to stay and be given the chance to get Hibs back to the Premiership. She said: “Terry has indicated in the press and since relegation that he wanted to stay on and was up for it and I’m sure if presented with that opportunity he would have done.”
Butcher’s assistant Maurice Malpas is currently abroad on holiday, with the club making attempts to contact him and request a meeting upon his return. Coach and scout Steve Marsella, who Butcher brought with him from Inverness, will meet Dempster tomorrow.
The chief executive’s strong working relationship with McCall, who has led Motherwell to back-to-back second-place finishes in the Premiership, was inevitably brought up, but Dempster responded with a straight bat. “Listen, Stuart is an absolutely fantastic manager and everyone knows he has done tremendously well for Motherwell,” she said. “I would find it strange if my working relationship with him wasn’t mentioned but it would be disrespectful to Motherwell to even comment on that. And don’t take anything from that. Stuart’s in a job, he’s got a club and I have to look wider.”
Dempster also had a message for the fans’ campaign to oust Petrie. She said: “There is no indication that Rod is not going to be the chairman here. I think the supporters focusing on this issue are focusing on a one-ticket item if you like. Rod is our non-exec chairman and he has instigated this change [bringing her in as chief executive]. People either believe that I’ve been brought in to do a job or they don’t. What we don’t want to do is keep having this conversation. I told the supporters on Saturday we need to start looking forward.”
SHORTEST REIGN SINCE SAUZEE
TERRY Butcher will enter the history books as the the shortest-lived Hibernian manager since the disastrous reign of fans’ favourite Franck Sauzee more than 12 years ago, writes Iain Collin.
The former France international lasted just 69 days before being sacked in 2002 after winning just one of his 15 matches at the helm. Butcher, who was appointed on 12 November last year, has fared only slightly better and yesterday paid the price for a disastrous record since taking over from Pat Fenlon.
The one-time England skipper managed just six wins in 29 outings – with a Scottish Cup defeat at home to Championship side Raith Rovers and the play-off collapse at home to Hamilton Accies last month, when his side wasted a two-goal advantage before succumbing to relegation in a penalty shoot-out – low points in struggling to a miserable 20.6 win percentage. A sequence of just one win in the club’s last 19 matches leading into the play-offs seems to have sealed the former Motherwell and Inverness Caley Thistle manager’s fate, with relegation a failing too far for the club’s hierarchy and support.
HIBERNIAN MANAGERS’ RECORD
Terry Butcher - 12 November 2013 to 10 June 2014 - 29 games - 6 wins - 8 draws - 15 defeats - 20.6 win percentage
Pat Fenlon - 27 November 2011 to 1 November 2013 - 87 games - 31 wins - 19 draws - 37 defeats - 35.63 win percentage
Colin Calderwood- 18 October 2010 to 6 November 2011 - 49 games - 12 wins - 11 draws - 26 defeats - 24.49 win percentage
John Hughes - 8 June 2009 to 4 October 2010 - 54 games - 19 wins - 12 draws - 23 defeats - 35.19 win percentage
Mixu Paatelainen - 10 January 2008 to 29 May 2009 - 62 games - 19 wins - 18 draws - 25 defeats - 30.65 win percentage
John Collins - 31 October 2006 to 20 December 2007 - 54 games - 23 wins - 15 draws - 16 defeats - 42.59 win percentage
Tony Mowbray - 24 May 2004 to 13 October 2006 - 108 games - 52 wins - 16 draws - 40 defeats - 48.15 win percentage
Bobby Williamson - 25 February 2002 to 20 April 2004 - 93 games - 34 wins - 21 draws - 38 defeats - 36.56 win percentage
Franck Sauzee - 14 December 2001 to 21 February 2002 - 15 games - 1 win - 6 draws - 8 defeats - 6.67 win percentage
Alex McLeish - 11 February 1998 to 11 December 2001 - 164 games - 77 wins - 42 draws - 45 defeats - 46.95 win percentage
Jim Duffy - 30 December 1996 to 3 February 1998 - 48 games - 10 wins - 15 draws - 23 defeats - 20.83 win percentage