Albert Kidd already occupies a special place in Hibernian folklore. He now has another gift for fans of the Easter Road club – a ringing endorsement of Graham Arnold.
The Australia national team manager has been linked to the vacant managerial position at Hibs since news of Neil Lennon’s initial suspension first emerged a fortnight ago. With no announcement about Lennon’s successor expected until early next week, Kidd, speaking from Adelaide, has made a passionate plea for Hibs to consider Arnold’s case, if they haven’t already.
Former Leeds United manager Paul Heckingbottom has been strongly linked to the post but, as ever with Hibs, they are taking time to get the right appointment. It would not be a surprise if a successful candidate emerged from out of left field – maybe, even, the other side of the world.
Kidd moved to Australia a year after his two goals for Dundee destroyed Hearts’ title dreams on the last day of the 1985-86 season to allow Celtic to top the league on goal difference. He is now a respected media pundit and has no hesitation in vouching for Arnold.
“Looking at the job that is on offer there, Graham Arnold would be a brilliant fit for that,” he said. “I know the guy inside out. He will bring something special to Scottish football, and more importantly to Hibernian Football Club.
“In Scotland there seems to be a lot of recycled coaches. But here’s a coach who has scores on the board. I don’t think coaching is all about coaching the team. It is about club dynamics. He gets involved in all areas, and that’s something that I think would attract Hibs.”
Despite some reports Arnold has distanced himself from the Easter Road position, Kidd believes it is not as cut and dried as that. Arnold is only a few months into a re-building job with Football Federation Australia. Nevertheless, he has spoken previously of his love for the cut and thrust of club football. His only experience of domestic football as a manager outwith Australia came in a short, unhappy period at Japanese club Vegalta Sendai. He was let go after eight winless matches. As a player he enjoyed stints in both Belgium and Holland.
Arnold demonstrated his willingness to give youth a chance during a successful three-year spell at Central Coast Mariners, whom he guided to the Round of 16 in the AFC Champions League. Later success with Sydney FC led to him being recruited for a second spell as manager of the Socceroos. He signed a four-year deal in March to the end of the 2022 World Cup cycle. There was some early disappointment with last month’s elimination from the Asia Cup at the last-eight stage.
Hibs already have links to Australia. Midfielder Mark Milligan was installed as captain of the Socceroos by Arnold. Winger Martin Boyle, was called up by Arnold on account of his form for Hibs, qualifying because his father was born in Sydney.
Arnold also generated headlines when he demanded that Celtic’s Tom Rogic miss the Old Firm derby in December to join up with his squad prior to the Asian Cup tournament.
“Arnie has been mentioned in connection with Hibs and he is clearly on the radar,” said Kidd. “I looked at the Hibs situation with Lennon and I immediately thought Arnie would be fantastic for this job in Scotland. What he has is something special to galvanise the club. He won the A-League championship with Sydney FC. What was glaringly obvious was how happy the players were. It was like Graeme Souness all those years ago coming into Ibrox and restructuring the whole set-up – that’s what he did at Sydney.
“He also has a great knack with the media. I have taken note of Steven Gerrard’s attitude, and he seems a very controlled individual. Well Arnie fits that bill as well. You see so many coaches being animated on the bench and really going off. But Arnie is controlled, he says the right things.”
What Kidd seems to be saying is he is the opposite of Lennon, which is not necessarily a good thing since the former manager, whatever his faults, inspired Hibs to new heights, including a best-ever top-flight points total last season.
It might take effort to convince Arnold, 55, to come to Scotland, harder still to make it financially viable given his long-term deal with Australia. But stranger things have happened. Kidd hopes Hibs have at least spoken to him and is confident he would get the warm welcome he himself is guaranteed at Easter Road. Despite never playing for either club he is still invited to Hibs and Celtic supporters club events to this day.
“I have ties to Hibs,” he says. “I’m good mates with Graham Harvey, Erich Schaedler was a great mate, god rest him, and I played for Jackie McNamara at Morton. Hibs supporters make a big deal about ’86. I have always liked Hibs, always thought they were a fantastic club. So if they are looking at Arnie, I would not hesitate to endorse him. I know exactly what the guy is about.”