HIBERNIAN supporters are ready to throw their weight behind manager-in-waiting Alan Stubbs but there are fears the former Celtic defender is joining a club still in turmoil following the shock of relegation.
Barring any unforeseen last-minute hitches, Stubbs will be named as Hibs’ eighth boss in a decade in the next 24 or 48 hours.
However, the 42-year-old may have to think again about his choice of a No 2, with reports south of the border indicating that David Unsworth, his assistant as Everton Under-21 coach, will remain at Goodison Park rather than come north with him.
The delay in getting the deal over the line, as one club source put it yesterday, meant the Easter Road squad returned for their first day of pre-season training still unclear on who would be managing them, when the competitive action kicks off in less than five weeks.
Uncertainty also surrounds the likes of Liam Craig, who reported back for training under the guidance of under-20 coach James McDonaugh, despite reportedly being told the day after relegation last month that he could seek a move away from the club.
Fans already concerned that it took Hibs so long to dispense with the services of Terry Butcher – more than a fortnight after the play-off defeat to Hamilton Accies – are now concerned the appointment of his successor is also dragging on.
In contrast, city rivals Hearts have changed their management structure and personnel since the end of the season and have now signed four new players since exiting administration earlier this month.
Whilst the Tynecastle outfit recently reported season-ticket numbers of 5,000 and rising, Hibs’ sales have also been left in limbo after they began with prices pegged at Premiership levels and were then demoted to the Championship. In addition, the ‘Petrie Out’ campaign that sprung up in the wake of relegation and which attracted a rally of around 1,500 backers earlier this month, has formalised the disquiet felt within the support at chairman Rod Petrie’s stewardship of the club in recent years.
Fans’ chief Mike Riley, the chairman of the Hibernian Supporters Association and one of the leading figures in the ‘Petrie Out’ movement, is adamant the campaign will not fizzle out and admits he is concerned at the slow pace of change despite the appointment of Leeann Dempster as chief executive at the start of the month.
He said: “Alan Stubbs represents a bit of a gamble but let’s just hope he doesn’t suffer the same fate as other managers have.
“People might talk about him getting time but do we have time? We don’t have any time. Mr Petrie has placed us in a situation that should have been dealt with long ago, and to still be in a situation where we haven’t got a manager is an absolute shambles.
“I can’t believe the state we’re in, it’s just beyond comprehension.
“Yes, we need to get the manager in as soon as possible. If it’s going to be Stubbs good and well, but let’s get him in there.
“We’ve got a paper-thin squad, the club needs to sign players, the team needs pre-season friendlies and fans can’t buy season tickets because they don’t know what price they are.
“If Leeann Dempster is pulling the strings now as she says she is, we must get Stubbs in and get season tickets sold – and the best way of getting season tickets sold would be for Petrie to leave. Getting a new manager in will let us see where we’re going. Poor Alan Stubbs, he’s having to come to a club in turmoil. The fans will back him but how many fans is that going to be?”
Hibs start their Championship campaign on 9 August at home to Livingston.