Inverness Caledonian Thistle assistant manager Maurice Malpas believes Terry Butcher has not yet made a decision about whether to join Hibernian as the teams prepare to meet tomorrow afternoon at Easter Road in an encounter now replete with intrigue.
Malpas was speaking at the club’s Fort George base yesterday after taking training with the players in Butcher’s absence. It’s likely that Malpas will be in the away dug-out tomorrow afternoon.
The assistant manager stressed yesterday that his focus is on Inverness taking three points from the game, rather than on the awkward nature of the assignment.
A spokesman for Hibs yesterday reported that talks with Butcher were “still progressing” with the expectation that something will be announced at the beginning of next week. Although Butcher spent time yesterday afternoon with his Inverness chairman Kenny Cameron, there was no resolution. “There are a million scenarios,” said Malpas.
With Butcher now back in the Highlands after meeting Hibs chairman Rod Petrie on Wednesday, Malpas was of the opinion that nothing has yet been decided. Butcher has taken his time in the past before electing to stay put, having turned down Barnsley last season in order to remain with Inverness.
It seems likely that he might now stay away from tomorrow’s league encounter – which, as so often happens in these situations, pitches two sides already in negotiations over a manager against each other on the pitch.
Malpas will take the Inverness team tomorrow, while Hibs assistant manager Jimmy Nicholl has already been charged with looking after the first team affairs at Easter Road. The Northern Irishman stepped into Pat Fenlon’s shoes last Friday afternoon following the then manager’s decision to resign following two poor defeats in five days against Aberdeen and then Hearts in the League Cup. Nicholl oversaw Sunday’s 1-0 defeat to Motherwell and will handle pre-match press conference duties at Easter Road today.
“Terry has a decision to make and it’s up to Terry what he does,” said Malpas. “Then there are a million scenarios after that. I’m here to make sure we are prepared properly. It’s been a normal week. Terry wasn’t here today, but Terry misses training sometimes.”
“I just get on with it,” he added. “We talk at the start of the week about what we’ll do during the week. And we talk each day specifically about the day’s work. This week has been the same. It will be the same tomorrow. And we’ll go again on Saturday and try to get the three points.”
It is expected that he would join Butcher in Edinburgh and Malpas was asked whether it would be a wrench for him personally to leave Inverness after five years at the club.
“You’re jumping in front of yourself – I’m here, and that’s it,” he said. “I’ve got to do my job. I take a lot of pride doing my job, preparing the players properly. I get a big kick out of winning on a Saturday and it’s the same this week. I’ve prepared the players. We’ve been together a long time now and I just want the players to do well on Saturday and win a game of football. This means I can get my fish supper in peace coming back up the road.”
Malpas stressed to the players yesterday the importance of ensuring that their minds remain focused on the task in hand. Inverness are currently third in the Scottish Premiership, seven points ahead of seventh-placed Hibs. They have already beaten Hibs 3-0 in September.
“It has been a normal week in terms of what we’ve done in training,” said Malpas. “There has been a lot of speculation and a lot of people well off the mark. We’ve just had to say to the players it is important to concentrate on the football, concentrate on the game on Saturday. Let’s go and win the game.
“That will shut a lot of people up. Our job is to win football games – as a team, as a club and as individuals. It is all about winning. We’ve got to make sure we go to Easter Road and win on Saturday. Whatever happens, happens, but we’ll have to come out with a win. The guys have been great this season in doing that. A couple of times we haven’t been at our best but we still won. It’s important we just have the mentality to go and play the best we can.
“If we can’t play well, we have to work hard and make it difficult for the other team and come back up the road with three points. It was just a case of [reminding] the players that is our job to make sure we’re ready to go and play on Saturday. Whatever is happening elsewhere will happen, irrespective if we think it should or shouldn’t. So it is important we concentrate and prepare properly.”