LEEANN Dempster says she will be the one responsible for the recruitment of Hibs’ latest manager and has emphatically dismissed suggestions that she will be influenced by the focus of the fans’ ire, chairman Rod Petrie.
The new Easter Road chief executive added that she would be very disappointed if anyone on the board failed to get behind her preferred candidate.
Having cut the 40-plus applications down to a shortlist, she hopes to have her new manager in place by the end of the week. “I’ll be doing it myself, but I’ll maybe be asking another board member to attend [the interview] but if you want to ask the question ‘will that board member be Rod Petrie?’ the answer to that is ‘no’.
“It’s important to hire the right person and I need to take that responsibility on my own. It’s important to take someone else with me though, because I don’t know everything about the football club. I do know what I want in terms of moving forward. So, it’ll be my recommendation. I’ll take a strong recommendation to the board, and I would be very disappointed if they don’t support that.
“That’s what happened when we recruited Stuart McCall at Motherwell. Myself and a fellow director did the interviews, got the shortlist, made the presentation and the recommendation and the board accepted it.”
Some have suggested McCall may be one of the targets, with John Collins, Ian Murray and Danny Lennon also touted but while Dempster refuses to discuss individuals she is clear on what makes an ideal candidate.
“We have to look at what their history has been like and how keen are they to get the post. I want someone who is desperate to get this job and is maybe desperate to prove themselves. You can maybe read into that that means a young manager but it might be someone who has been out the game for a bit, someone who has be a No.2, or been working as a coach but the important thing is the skill set. That has to match the style of play we want and the philosophy here and we have to be capable of working together. That’s the one thing when I vet managers or meet them; that chemistry is really important.”
Comparing Motherwell’s success rate when appointing managers to Hibs’ own record over the past few years, it is clear why Dempster has been tasked to bring in the new gaffer. “Let’s be honest, one of the reasons I was brought to the club was they wanted to tie that side of the club together a bit better, and approach it in a different way. We’ve got an opportunity because we’re in the process of recruiting a new manager, and from a football perspective we have a number of key positions which need to be recruited as well.
“I’ve never had the experience of being able to recruit a whole team and that, in terms of a football plan, is an attractive position to be in. Obviously we would prefer not to have reached this position and have a manager in post but actually, when you look at the football department there’s a real opportunity. We don’t have a goalkeeping coach, a sports scientist, an analyst – these are things we want to put in place.”
There is the question of whether there is the budget in the pot to lure a box-office name. “It’s important we get the right person. There are massive challenges with being in the Championship with only one automatic promotion place. We need to work hard on every front.”
With supporter unrest causing a drop in season ticket sales, she says the club needs to turn attentions back to football and start rebuilding the squad as soon as possible. “It would be ideal to sell more season tickets. I think some [fans] are sitting back and waiting to see what players are going to be coming in and that happens at the club. They want to see who the manager is going to be and then they will make an assessment and that is right.
“The problem is that the last couple of weeks have been a vacuum and that doesn’t allow people to focus but there will be a fixture list soon and we can see when certain games are, and there will be a new manager and players coming in soon and then, all of a sudden, supporters go ‘oh, I must get my season ticket’. So the sooner we can get this recruitment completed the better, no doubt about that. But we don’t want to sacrifice the quality of the person.”
Dempster is well aware that – with the season kicking off on 26 July with a Challenge Cup match – time is of the essence, but she rubbishes the idea of making any moves to add to the squad before a new manager is in place. “If you do that or make decisions on the current first-team squad that doesn’t make sense. There are key positions that we all know we need to address – there are no goalkeepers for example – so that’s an area we need to get moving on. That is something, in terms of the work [scout] Steve [Marsella] has done already, and a new manager will come in and decide if those individuals should stay on the target list or not.”
Whoever it is, he is likely to have no more than a week in the job before pre-season starts.