HIBERNIAN chairman Rod Petrie refused yesterday to corroborate speculation that Terry Butcher has become the favourite to succeed Pat Fenlon as manager.
The Easter Road outfit lost 1-0 to Motherwell at Fir Park in their first match since the Irishman’s resignation on Friday.
Afterwards Petrie declined to comment on talk that Inverness manager Butcher is the man he wants to take the club forward.
He said: “I think Pat Fenlon did a good job but he’s made his decision and we are looking forward now. I’m not going into any names. It’s important that we take our time and get the right guy.”
Fenlon’s former assistant, Jimmy Nicholl, was in charge of Hibs for their Scottish Premiership clash with Well but watched his fragile new charges go down to Stephen McManus’s 23rd-minute header.
The Northern Irishman said he thought he had managed to persuade the former Bohemians boss to stay on in the capital following Wednesday’s numbing loss to city rivals Hearts in the League Cup quarter-finals.
He said: “I tried to talk Pat out of resigning. For a good length of time and I thought I had him too. But deep down I could see the relief in him once he had made his decision.
“Can I understand his reasons? No, and I told him I thought he was going for the wrong reasons.
“But then when you watch the interview after he announced he was leaving, you can see the weight coming off him. It’s okay me saying to him that I enjoy working with him and that it will be alright. It’s okay me telling him he has got the respect of the players and that he has turned this place around, but I am only talking football to him. But he has got his personal reasons and you could see the relief in him now.”
The derby defeat by the financially-stricken Jambos – the second time it has happened this season – was too much for some Hibs fans who protested after the midweek upset.
It comes after the record 9-0 aggregate Europa League defeat to Malmo and, of course, last year’s calamitous 5-1 Scottish Cup final loss at the hands of the Tynecastle men.
But Nicholl says the fans did not see the full impact of Fenlon’s efforts.
“I’ve only been at the club a short while but the boys who have been there longer tell me what a difference Pat made and what it was like before,” he said.
“But it’s everything else, the fans are only interested in winning games and cups. But what Pat did behind the scenes matters to football people and he can go away knowing that.”
Butcher has emerged as the bookies’ favoured candidate but Nicholl says he hopes to remain with the club, no matter who takes over.
“I haven’t taken any phone calls from any of the candidates,” he joked when asked if he had talked to his former Kilmarnock boss Kenny Shiels.
“I want to stay at the club though. I just stay below the radar. Whatever happens happens. If whoever comes in wants me to stay then brilliant. If they don’t, then that’s it.”
Another name to enter the frame last night was Spaniard Antonio Tapia. The 53-year-old has been sacked from his most recent managerial postings at Tenerife and Real Betis, with much of his best working coming at Malaga. He is reported to have applied for the Easter Road vacancy.