Where Hibs will turn to next in manager hunt as sporting director and Bill Foley accelerate plan to snap miserable cycle

Montgomery did not do enough to convince club he could be part of revolution

It was a question of when Hibs would remove Nick Montgomery from post, not if, following Sunday’s horrendous 4-0 defeat by Aberdeen.

Already under pressure after failing to guide the club into the top six of the Premiership, he was given a stay of execution for the remaining five bottom-six matches but with an ominous warning: results must improve. St Johnstone were defeated 3-1 but a 2-1 loss at Ross County and then last weekend’s home humiliation by the Dons left him in a very precarious position. Montgomery fought his corner, however many of the fans had seen enough. Those that remained booed loudly at the end after Aberdeen’s 16-year-old Fletcher Boyd netted the fourth goal in stoppage time.

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The Hibs support has been steadily turning against Montgomery since the beginning of 2024. His attack-based style of football initially wooed them but a reluctance to stray from an ambitious 4-4-2/4-2-4 formation left the team naive against streetwise opponents. While the ex-Central Coast Mariners manager did eventually revert to a 4-2-3-1 and got a slight improvement with the arrivals of Nathan Moriah-Welsh, Emiliano Marcondes and Myziane Maolida in January, they ultimately weren’t enough. Hibs still conceded too many goals under Montgomery, whose team was always glaringly open. Not recruiting a centre-half with experience was a serious misjudgement by the club during the winter window.

Nick Montgomery has only won nine league matches during his tenure.Nick Montgomery has only won nine league matches during his tenure.
Nick Montgomery has only won nine league matches during his tenure.

Then there was his relationship with the fans. They will not mourn his departure. He struggled to build a strong rapport with them and his post-match analysis of how the team was playing grated heavily by the end. He did not record a statement victory: no wins over Hearts, Celtic or Rangers, and lost to Aberdeen at Hampden. He was a victim of misfortune, with injuries and international call-ups depleting his squad in the winter months, and VAR was not his friend. After only one transfer window, he will likely claim he was not given enough time, but he did not give those who matter enough evidence that he deserved it.

The wider changes at Hibs did not help Montgomery’s cause either. Bill Foley, an American billionaire who owns Bournemouth, now has a sizeable shareholding in the club and is injecting £6 million into the kitty next season. While not all of that is earmarked for transfers, Montgomery’s demise coincided with Foley’s arrival, and those within his Black Knight football consortium would no doubt be questioning whether a manager of such little experience, with a poor record thus far at Hibs, could be trusted to use such resource correctly.

Hibs will undergo something of a revolution this summer. A sporting director could well be in place before a new manager, with director of football Brian McDermott potentially moved into a scouting position. McDermott played a lead role in appointing Montgomery. A lot of pressure has fallen on to the shoulders of chief executive Ben Kensell, who has now presided over four managerial sackings: Jack Ross, Shaun Maloney, Lee Johnson and Montgomery. Some fans are baying for his blood. Kensell was seen in the directors box with fellow board members Kit Gordon and Scott Fraser talking animatedly right after the Aberdeen loss. But how long do those above the coaches survive? Hibs’ accounts were grim reading earlier this year – although the next set will be healthier – and while some improvement has taken place off the pitch, it has been regression on it.

The players must also carry the can. Holding on to a lead has been this squad’s Achilles heel, a mentality issue. The softness that dogged Hibs for years prior to the Ross era has slipped back into the team.

Hibs chief executive Ben Kensell and Kit Gordon watch on during the 4-0 defeat by Aberdeen.Hibs chief executive Ben Kensell and Kit Gordon watch on during the 4-0 defeat by Aberdeen.
Hibs chief executive Ben Kensell and Kit Gordon watch on during the 4-0 defeat by Aberdeen.

David Gray is now caretaker manager for a fourth time since moving into coaching. His last stint between Johnson and Montgomery coincided with one of Hibs’ strongest performances, a 2-0 win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie. Gray may well feel his time has come and has two matches to strengthen his case before the end of the season, against Motherwell at home and then Livingston away on Sunday. Hibs do not have a candidate lined up immediately, and while he will not have the final say, Foley and his fellow US-based director Ryan Caswell will no doubt have ideas from the Black Knight stable.

The sporting director development at Hibs will be key to replacing Montgomery, as they will be looking for a head coach rather than a manager to lead the team. Domestically, Kilmarnock’s Derek McInnes and St Mirren’s Stephen Robinson are the stand-out candidates in the Prmeiership given their excellent work this season, but would either fit seamlessly into the club’s structure? Robinson was on a long-list when Johnson departed but such was the desire to pursue Montgomery, it did not go further than that. In terms of younger coaches, Rhys McCabe at Airdrieonians is catching the eye but such a step up would be gargantuan. Ian Murray, a former Hibs captain, is doing good things at Raith Rovers, and may lead them to promotion to the top flight with the play-offs starting tonight.

Away from Scotland, Alex Neil – who worked with Kensell at Norwich City – is still available after leaving Stoke City earlier in the season, although his preference has always been to remain in English football. With Foley’s Bournemouth link, a move from within Black Knight cannot be ruled out either. Hibs are already working on the process after Montgomery was informed of his fate following a board meeting on Monday evening.

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Hibs have now sacked four managers in three years. It is hardly a glowing endorsement of a stable place to be employed. Still one of the biggest and more attractive clubs in the country to work in, they are back to square one yet again, a club stuck in a miserable cycle of failure and underachievement. They must hope Foley’s involvement and the football review can snap it.



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