Hibs sack Lee Johnson as Ben Kensell explains reasons for axe falling on manager

Hibs have sacked manager Lee Johnson following the club’s poor start to the cinch Premiership campaign.

The 42-year-old’s axing was announced by the club on Sunday afternoon, with his assistant coaches Jamie McAllister and Adam Owen also departing the Easter Road outfit. First team coach David Gray will once again be caretaker manager – the third time he has done that role – and will be assisted by goalkeeping coach Stuart Garden.

Hibs sit bottom of the league table after three rounds of fixtures in the Premiership, with Saturday’s 3-2 defeat by Livingston following on from a 2-1 loss at Motherwell and an opening-day 3-2 reversal at home to St Mirren. Despite guiding Hibs to the play-off round of the Europa Conference League, where they trail Aston Villa 5-0 after the first leg, the club’s hierarchy had becoming increasingly concerned with the team’s domestic form, with supporters venting their fury towards Johnson during the loss to Livi.

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A brief statement from chief executive Ben Kensell on the Hibs website read: “The club has taken the tough decision to relieve Lee Johnson of his duties following a disappointing start to the domestic campaign. We wish Lee and his coaching staff all the best for the future and thank them for their efforts.”

Formerly of Oldham, Bristol City and Sunderland, Johnson was appointed by Hibs in the summer of 2022 on a four-year contract, replacing Shaun Maloney as boss. The Englishman guided the team to a fifth-place finish in the Premiership last season, qualifying for Europe in the process, but has paid the price for the start to this season.

Former club captain Gray is likely to be in charge of the return leg in Birmingham against Villa on Thursday, with Hibs’ next Premiership match away at Aberdeen on Sunday, September 3. The Scotsman understands that a permanent appointment is more likely to come after the match at Pittodrie, with the league taking a two-week break due to international football, with a new boss expected to be in place for the trip to Kilmarnock on September 16.

Derek McInnes, the current manager at Rugby Park, is likely to be one of the frontrunners for the position, along with St Mirren boss Stephen Robinson and ex-Hibs midfielder Scott Brown, who is currently in charge of Fleetwood Town.