AXED goalkeeper Sean Murdoch fears that Hibernian could be destined for five years in the Championship after slipping out of the top flight for the first time since 1998.
Murdoch, a die-hard Hibs supporter and former season ticket holder at the capital club, was among 11 out-of-contract players released by manager Terry Butcher following Sunday’s humiliating defeat by Hamilton.
Butcher’s cull is the first step in a rebuilding process which will target an immediate return to the Premiership – a tall order given Rangers and Hearts’ presence in the second tier next term. Indeed, Murdoch is concerned Hibs could be set for a lengthy spell in the lower leagues.
The 27-year-old, who also had a stint with Hamilton, said: “The Championship will be a crazy league, and a fantastic league. Don’t forget about the smaller clubs. Teams like Falkirk will still be up there and still be giving everyone a good game.
“You only have one automatic place, then you have the play-offs where you will have to face a Premiership team to get out of it.
“Potentially you could be down there for four or five years, as could Hearts or Rangers. That’s the reality. Hibs are a massive club. I supported them since I was a six-year-old boy, I was a season ticket holder and I love Hibs. Sunday was a sad day for me. I woke up on Monday morning and thought, ‘My God, we’ve actually been relegated here’.
“It’s incredible and a massive blow for Edinburgh as a city. If you had told me three years ago that Hearts and Hibs would be playing a derby league match in the Championship, I would have told you you were mad.”
James McPake was another experienced player released on Monday, and he expressed his disappointment at not being given a chance to help Hibs avoid the drop – despite being fit for over two months.
Murdoch understands that frustration, while suggesting a large portion of the squad did not feel comfortable with Butcher’s style of play. He does, however, expect the manager to be allowed to build a team the way he sees fit and, more significantly, a squad capable of producing a quick return to the top flight.
The keeper continued: “James has been fit for the last ten weeks and he is a top, top player. Why wasn’t he in the team? I can’t really answer that. You would have to ask the management team. James has got a fair point. As a fellow player and friend, I told him a long time ago that I thought he should be in the team.
“However, that’s football and the management team makes those decisions.
“I would expect Terry to be given the chance to bring his own players in and see if he can mount a promotion challenge. He needs to be judged on that.
“I think the style of football didn’t suit some players. It was tough and there were some unhappy players at not playing.
“That’s why I think he will be given the chance to bring in players that will suit him next season.”