Is Hibs manager Jack Ross still a candidate for the Celtic job?

Back in December when Jack Ross was first mooted as a possible replacement for the under-pressure Neil Lennon, the Hibs manager addressed the rumours by describing the Celtic role as “one of the biggest jobs in British football” before adding “but I am focused here”.

Hibs boss Jack Ross (L) and former Celtic manager Neil Lennon. Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group

Without a concrete offer that would be expected of a man who is the epitome of the one game at a time mindset.

A pragmatic individual, he is also a highly-ambitious manager, and such a job would be considered tough to turn down, no matter how focused he is on delivering a third-place finish in the Premiership, eclipsing Lennon’s achievements at the Leith club.

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Considered a firm but fair man-manager who enjoys working to get the best from his players, the improvement in guys like Joe Newell, Paul McGinn and Ryan Porteous, and the nurturing of Josh Doig and Kevin Nisbet this term backs that up.

Aware of the demands for immediate results, he has still taken a considered approach to reshaping and rebuilding the misfiring and low achieving squad he inherited from Paul Heckingbottom.

The former Alloa, St Mirren and Sunderland gaffer has good knowledge of the game and contacts north and south of the border and is highly-regarded by members of the current Celtic hierarchy.

In December, it was suggested by those in the know at the Parkhead club that he was being quietly lined up as a quick replacement to steady the ship and, hopefully, use his interpersonal skills to spark life into the numerous underperforming stars in the squad, allowing them to at least close the gap on Rangers.

It forced Hibs’ Sporting Director Graeme Mathie to concede that while he did not sense that Ross considered his role a short-term one, the club were aware of the rumours.

“I don’t want this to be misinterpreted because we worked incredibly hard to bring Jack to the club in the first place, and we genuinely thought he was the right man for the job and everything we have seen since has pointed to that being the right decision. We want him to be here for a long period of time.

“But I am not naive and if a club comes for him that gives him another challenge or significantly different terms and conditions then I would assume he would come to me and have a conversation about it.

“When you hear these types of rumours, it is only prudent for us to consider if something like that was to happen some time in the future, then what would be our next move.

"We understand that Jack is a highly regarded head coach and manager, as he should be, and just as we are aware that our talented players might be wanted by others in January or at the end of the season, we also have to be aware of all of these other things and prepare appropriately.”

But while producing Hibs’ highest league finish in 16 years is a major selling point, his side’s semi-final slip ups in both cup competitions have seen his odds lengthen and will make it hard to convince Celtic fans that Ross is the man, when they would prefer big-hitters such as Rafa Benitiz, Eddie Howe, Frank Lampard, Roberto Martinez, or even Scotland boss Steve Clarke.

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