Hibs chief Leeann Dempster: Heckingbottom had to go as we were just hoping to win

Leeann Dempster has revealed Paul Heckingbottom was sacked because it had reached a stage where Hibs were reduced to simply hoping to win games.

Paul Heckingbottom was sacked by Hibs after a poor start to the season. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS
Paul Heckingbottom was sacked by Hibs after a poor start to the season. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

The Yorkshireman was removed from his post earlier this month after his side won just once in their opening 11 league matches.

There is a school of thought that he was harshly treated. Hibs had drawn their previous five league matches before a 5-2 defeat by Celtic in the Betfred Cup semi-final proved the last straw.

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“It was about weighing up the possibilities with Paul,” explained Dempster. “We’d gone a full cycle of games and didn’t have the wins we wanted.

“There were a lot of thin lines but you have to look at the next games that are coming. If you go into a match, being honest, more with hope than expectation then that’s not a good place for us to be. I don’t mean that with any 
disrespect to Paul.

“He was a fantastic coach who did brilliant things in the game. I hope he’ll go and do other things and I think 
he will.

“But we have to look at the here and now. It was a tough decision, not an obvious decision. But we made it and now we have to move on to the next phase. That’s life in football. It’s unforgiving.”

Dempster said she was immediately impressed by replacement Jack Ross, who has signed a three-year contract and is preparing to make his Easter Road bow this weekend against Motherwell.

The chief executive would not confirm or deny that Celtic coach John Kennedy had been another strong contender. But she claimed she knew Ross should be top of the Hibs wish list within a minute of sitting down with him.

“‘It’s fair to say we had a wide and varied number of conversations, but we only spoke with a couple of people in earnest,” said Dempster. “When we spoke with Jack, Graeme [Mathie, Hibs sporting director] and I obviously had a lot of information, so we were able to distill the questions and conversations. There’s an element where you know if you can work with somebody.

“Quite quickly you build an understanding and trust with somebody. Hopefully, in a relatively short period of time, we’ve started that. That’s really important.

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“When I worked in the media, I was told you knew who could work with and go into business within about 60 seconds. I still think that’s true.”