Hibs manager: Paul Heckingbottom favourite for head coach role after Michael Appleton talks falter

Paul Heckingbottom has re-emerged as favourite to become Hibernian’s new manager after talks with Michael Appleton broke down at an advanced stage.

Former Leeds United head coach Heckingbottom had been leading the race to succeed Neil Lennon before Appleton emerged as a front-runner late last week.

The former Blackburn Rovers, Portsmouth and Oxford United manager had impressed Hibs officials, with chief executive Leeann Dempster and director of football George Craig leading the recruitment process.

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But negotiations with Appleton are now understood to have faltered, leading Hibs to return to their original preferred choice. The 41-year-old Heckingbottom is now in pole position to land the job.

Paul Heckingbottom is now the front-runner to take over at HibsPaul Heckingbottom is now the front-runner to take over at Hibs
Paul Heckingbottom is now the front-runner to take over at Hibs

Hibs had hoped to unveil their new appointment yesterday but still plan on having a new manager in charge for Saturday’s clash with Hamilton Accies at Easter Road.

“The new man is coming in,” temporary boss Eddie May announced with confidence after the Scottish Cup win over Raith Rovers. “I have been told this was my last game. I won’t be in charge for the Hamilton game.” 
It’s just that the new man allowing May to return to his role as Head of Academy won’t be the one expected at the weekend, when the 43-year-old Appleton looked on course to be appointed.

Heckingbottom lasted only four months in charge at Elland Road before being replaced by the considerably higher-profile Marcelo Bielsa. But he won promotion to the Championship previously at Barnsley and fits the Hibs bill for someone keen to promote youth and build something that lasts while also playing attractive football. He has a Masters degree in sports coaching and since his sacking at Leeds last summer has been visiting clubs and studying games.

His departure after just 115 days at Leeds briefly shook him but he recently spoke about his burning desire to return to front-line management. 
“There is lots wrong with management in how crazy it is. It can be an impossible job, but it is a drive,” he said. 
“I have had a taste of it and three good years at it and have learned a lot and that all-consuming challenge is what I miss. Until that changes I will keep doing it.”