Graeme Mathie's Hibs exit analysed: Transfer window played part but writing was on wall - success must be remembered

Graeme Mathie has been relieved of his duties as Hibs sporting director.Graeme Mathie has been relieved of his duties as Hibs sporting director.
Graeme Mathie has been relieved of his duties as Hibs sporting director.
It is ironic that the only thing standing between Graeme Mathie and his formal Hibs exit is a round of negotiations to decide just how many carats are acceptable for his golden handshake.

But further bartering is probably the last thing the departing sporting director can be bothered with at this moment in time, following a summer transfer window that ultimately rubber-stamped the parting of the ways.

The 38-year-old was part of the recruitment drive to bring the likes of John McGinn to the club and helped deliver the 2016 Scottish Cup success, but he has been in the game long enough to know that success is a double-edged sword. While players are only as good as their last pass and managers are rated on a game-by-game basis, men in his position are judged by the impact they make in the transfer market.

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Of course, his role was about more than simply delivering on a shopping list. He was behind the football partnerships with the likes of Edinburgh City and Stenhousemuir, as he sought out first-team experience and a challenge beyond the development ranks in the club’s young assets could kick on.

However, as the new chief executive Ben Kensell got his feet under the desk and owner Ron Gordon’s son, Ian, was brought to Edinburgh and charged with casting his eye over key areas of the football department, scrutiny was high.

There was undoubted success last term as they emerged from lockdown in a strong position – Mathie played a significant part in that – and were able to play hardball when suitors came sniffing and hang onto their best players.

With success comes heightened expectations and even greater demands and Mathie, at the club since 2014, was under a lot of pressure. Not just from Hibs’ owner since 2019 and ambitious chairman Ron Gordon, but from a football manager in Jack Ross determined to keep his own stock high after masterminding the club’s highest-placed league finish in 16 years. He wanted reinforcements.

The summer market was relatively stagnant and that made things difficult for clubs like Hibs. While big-money bids had been anticipated for the likes of Kevin Nisbet, Ryan Porteous and Josh Doig, they failed to materialise, with Mathie publicly warning off anyone without bulging wallets in Scottish football terms.

Early deals were done for Dan MacKay and Jake Doyle-Hayes. But by the time James Scott arrived, followed by Nathan Wood, Hibs were already out of Europe, their limited options at both ends of the park contributed to the loss in Rijeka.

Then there was the final day of the window as Hibs failed to land St Mirren’s Jamie McGrath. They ran out of time on deadline day to complete the deal, while also letting Scott Allan and Drey Wright know they were considered surplus to requirements. Ironically, a player they made a late move to sign – Barrie McKay – chose Hearts and was on the bench against Hibs in the next game.

Mathie should not be remembered solely for what happened in the final days of the transfer window. That would be unfair, and he was not the only person culpable in those deals. But as one of the few remaining members of the old guard, he was always going to pay the price. In time, he will look back and realise it was probably the right time and the right thing for both him and the club.

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