Hibs' damning managerial record: a club adept at making change but not often for the better

It is a certainty that Shaun Maloney will be feeling pretty sore right now.

Being brutally axed from your first frontline managerial post after a mere four months will have that effect. Yet, Maloney can maybe derive a crumb of comfort from the fact he isn’t the first man in the modern age to curse having bothered to brighten the Hibs manager’s office with any personal mementos. Or even close to the second.

The Easter Road club’s decision to call time on their ‘project’ with the 38-year-old after he had taken charge for a mere 19 games, leaves them now seeking their 18th permanent manager in the past 26 years. The ownership and executive control of matters at the Leith side may have gone through a number of incarnations across that period, but the one constant is that managers shouldn’t ever get too pally with the car park attendant. Of the previous 16 since Alex Miller just failed to bring up a decade in the position during the 1996-97 season, not all have been unceremoniously handed their jotters. Alex McLeish, Bobby Williamson, Tony Mowbray, John Collins and Alan Stubbs all moved on of their own volition. So that just leaves Maloney as the 10th to be jettisoned. And, following Franck Sauzee lasting a palty two months, Terry Butcher six and Paul Heckingbotham eight, the fourth this millennium to fail to last a year.

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With the stints of Neil Lennon, Jack Ross, Pat Fenlon, Mowbray, Williamson and Stubbs all around the two to two-and-a-half-year mark, and Mixu Paatelainen, Jim Duffy, John Hughes and Colin Calderwood getting around a single year in charge - give or take a couple of months - the average length of tenure for a Hibs manager since the sacking of Miller is a smidgen under 15 months.

The cognescenti among the Hibs faithful put this down to their club’s delusions of grandeur. Understandably, the powerbrokers see the Leith side as one of the country’s big five - along with Celtic, Rangers, Hearts and Aberdeen. And woebetide any manager who doesn’t secure them that status…even if that might be down to a poor three months, a la Lennon, Ross and, you might say, even Maloney himself. The problem with the demand the Hibs hierarchy put on the man in charge of their team to nestle it among the higher ranking sides is that such an ambition buts up against an altogether different reality.

Granted, Hibs, unlike their direct rivals Hearts and Aberdeen, have snared both domestic cups in the past two decades, though their capital adversaries have two Scottish Cup triumphs in that time. Yet the true barometer of a team’s strength is provided by league placings. And since 1996-97, with two relegations - the same number as their Tynecastle adversaries, it must be said - never mind Hibs not regularly proving themselves to be a top five team, for four seasons they didn’t even compete in the top flight. In all, Hibs have seven top five finishes in Scotland’s upper tier over the past 27 seasons. A total that pales against the 16 Hearts will have when this campaign concludes and the 13 achieved by Aberdeen in the same period. Hibs, as a club, may be adept at changing managers. Not so adept are they, though, when it comes to initiating such change for the better.

Shaun Maloney is one of a number of Hibs managers in the last quarter of a century to last last than a year in the post. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
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