INVERNESS Caledonian Thistle last night cut a six-figure compensation deal with Hibernian as Terry Butcher sealed his expected switch to Easter Road, and early indications are that former Scotland manager Craig Levein is the front-runner to replace him.
Butcher will be joined in the capital by trusty assistant Maurice Malpas and after 209 matches, including 87 wins and 58 draws, the Inverness club have lost the most successful management team in their history.
However, Butcher and Malpas leave the club in rude health, second in the SPFL Premiership table and 90 minutes away from their first national cup final.
As well as Levein, others believed to have made their interest known include former Caley Thistle manager John Robertson, ex-Kilmarnock manager Kenny Sheils, Alloa’s Paul Hartley, Wick Academy’s Barry Wilson and ex-Dons manager Jimmy Calderwood.
Inverness chairman Kenny Cameron promised, however, that there would be “no knee-jerk reactions” in identifying the right candidate. He also vowed to fight to keep the current team together, with key players like Billy McKay, Josh Meekings, Graeme Shinnie and Aaron Doran already tied up for the longer-term.
Cameron, confirming the compensation package had been agreed, said that every effort had been made to persuade Butcher and Malpas to stay.
He said: “It is a major disappointment to the club and its supporters that they have taken this decision. I’d like to put on record our appreciation of the excellent job they have done at Inverness since Caley Thistle provided them with the opportunity to join the club in January 2009.
“Maurice was offered the manager’s role but declined. We would, however, like to record our sincere appreciation to him for taking the team on Saturday in what was a resounding victory. On the field, skipper Richie Foran and the players showed great heart and character. We have a special group of players here and we intend to keep them at this club.
“Our supporters were excellent, as usual, and we now ask for their patience regarding the team management scenario.”
The giant former Rangers and England captain’s appointment as successor to Craig Brewster in January 2009 propelled them on something of a roller-coaster ride.
Having narrowly failed to save the club from relegation that season, they bounced back up at the first time of asking with a First Division title success.
Butcher, trawling mainly the lower reaches of the divisions, built an exciting team on reputedly the top flight’s lowest budget.
It clicked spectacularly for them last season with a sparkling campaign bringing the club to its first League Cup semi-final and a record fourth place finish, breaking the top-six barrier for the first time. But there was a familiar downside to this spectacular success for a club with far less financial muscle than many below them in the league.
Cameron acknowledged: “This is the fourth time that Caley Thistle have found themselves in the situation of having their manager head-hunted by another Scottish Premier club. [It also happened with] Steve Paterson (Aberdeen), John Robertson (Hearts) and Craig Brewster (Dundee United). What it does show is that Caley Thistle have a tradition of getting their selection process right and the club has continued to progress.
“It is our aspiration to maintain this sequence. In the past couple of days we have been inundated with indications of interest from potential candidates or their representatives and we are positive this interest will now escalate.
“The supporters can be assured that the board will work its way through the options for a manager, arrive at a shortlist and proceed to interview. There will be no knee-jerk reaction and we are confident of appointing a manager of the calibre we require.”
Butcher will begin his sixth management job after the international break. But it was not yet known if there would be a move for a third member of his team, Steve Marsella, the Inverness club’s scout and goalkeeping coach.