THE appointment of a new manager at Hibernian appears to be imminent after Billy Brown, who has been doing the job as caretaker, admitted yesterday that a new man could be in place by the end of this week.
Three of the bookmakers offering odds about who will be the next Easter Road manager stopped taking bets last night, with Pat Fenlon of Bohemians their clear favourite. But it is understood that, by last night, there had still been no follow-up contact between the Irishman and the Easter Road club following their talks last week. The 42-year-old is keen on the job in Edinburgh, having previously been close to landing the Dundee United post in 2010.
With Hibernian keeping their cards close to their chest since Colin Calderwood’s sacking 17 days ago, Brown confessed that anything could happen between now and the weekend. The former Hearts assistant manager, who led Hibs to a 1-1 draw with Kilmarnock at the weekend and has been interviewed for the job is now preparing the squad for Saturday’s match against St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park.
However, the 60-year-old told Hibernian TV: “This could be my last interview. I’m not daft and I’ve been in football for a long time. I know there may possibly be someone here in charge by the end of the week, so I’m well aware of that.”
Brown has made no secret of his desire to land the post, and he added: “To have been put in charge of Hibs on Saturday was a great moment and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. It was strange as well because I never expected to be here. I know some people may object to it, but I’m very proud to be here at Hibs.”
In a further indication that developments are expected at Easter Road, the club has yet to inform the media of the details of this week’s usual pre-match press conference, which normally takes place on a Thursday with the media notified on Monday.
Meanwhile, former Hibs defender Steven Tweed insists the club will be missing a trick if they do not appoint Michael O’Neill as the successor to Calderwood. O’Neill flew to Sweden with Shamrock Rovers last night with his hopes fading of landing the post at his former club.
The former Easter Road winger was an early favourite for the job but neither he nor his Dublin side have received any approach for their title-winning manager.
The 42-year-old is out of contract at the Tallaght Stadium next month and it is understood he would be keen on a return to the Edinburgh club he served as a player for three years in the 1990s.
However, the former Brechin City manager, who has led Rovers to back-to-back Irish championships and into the Europa League group stages for the first time in their history, is privately accepting that Hibs must have other options.
The Northern Ireland cap is also being considered by his country, who are seeking a replacement for Nigel Worthington, who stood down last month.
But he is trying to put such distractions aside to concentrate on preparations for Shamrock’s remaining two Europa League encounters with Rubin Kazan and Tottenham Hotspur.
Rovers face Swedish side Malmo today in a friendly and return to Ireland tomorrow before flying to Russia next Tuesday for Wednesday’s meeting with Kazan.
Tweed insists it is those European exploits, coupled with domestic success and a knowledge of the Scottish game, that should have marked his former team-mate out as the board’s number one choice.
The former Montrose manager, now playing with Broughty Ferry, said: “The chances are Michael could go straight to English football from Ireland, given what he has done with Shamrock Rovers.
“He has done so much with them in a short period of time, getting into the Europa League for the first time in their history and winning back-to-back championships.
“But there’s not much more he can do there and now is the time for Hibs to make their move.
“He was the early favourite because he has so many attributes – former player, what he’s done as a manager, knows the Scottish game and the market.
“The time they [Hibs] are taking isn’t an issue for me. I wouldn’t mind if they took until Christmas, as long as they got the right person in. But I still believe it should be Michael.”
Former Scotland skipper Bruce Rioch, out of work since being sacked in October 2008 by Danish side Aalborg, is another who has been mentioned as a potential contender, with his close relationship with Tony Mowbray a possible link.
Fenlon had rocketed to the head of the betting last week, with a string of bookmakers slashing his odds from 20-1 to as low as 1-6. A former Republic of Ireland B cap, Fenlon will have be hoping he made a good impression on his last visit to Easter Road, when his team were defeated 2-1 in a friendly with Calderwood’s Hibs in March.