What a difference a day made at Hibs

JOHN Collins decided to walk away from Hibernian after just 14 months as manager because the club could not match his ambitions.

The former Scotland internationalist volunteered he didn't want to "tread water" after securing the club's first trophy in 15 years.

Making it clear the dispute which led to his resignation centred around a lack of funding for new players, Collins admitted matters reached a climax during a meeting with the Hibernian board at the club's training centre near Ormiston yesterday. However, he insisted the seeds of doubt about whether he had a future at Easter Road had swirled around his head for weeks.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"This isn't something that has just happened," he told journalists during an afternoon briefing. "It has been something I have been thinking about for a couple of weeks and it was brought to a head by events of this morning. We all have difficult decisions to make in life and I can ensure everyone it was one of the toughest, if not the toughest, decisions of my entire life.

"I don't feel good just now. I feel sad, but that's me. As a football manager, you have to make tough decisions every week and this has most certainly been a tough decision. Something brought this to a head. The simple fact is that I wanted to make progress, to have a slightly bigger budget.

"Every football club has budgets and Hibs are no different to any other club. I felt it was the time to invest a bit more in the team to take us forward. But I respect Hibs and their directors – they have done a fine job. There have been no broken promises. The directors have a difficult job, but the club is now in a healthy state."

Nevertheless, figures were the reason behind Collins' departure, even if the manager and the club could not quite agree on the gap between income and expenditure during a remarkable year when Hibs won the CIS Cup as well as maximising transfer fees for a group of outstandingly talented young players.

"I love a challenge, but I have come to the conclusion as a young, ambitious manager that I don't really like treading water any more," he said. "That is the job. It has extra-high expectations and I'll now be judged by many people. Some will say I have done a bad job, some will say I have done a good job. I will always paint a pretty picture.

"The club has raised a lot of money in my time as manager. We have taken in 8.8million in transfers and invested 360,000 in compensation for players. We have won the CIS Cup and there is another good young group of players coming through. The fans have yet to see some of the young players, but I am sure, in the coming years, they will be able to take pleasure from them.

"We have had some great matches. Personally, I feel we have punched above our weight. It has been a pleasure locking horns with the Old Firm – Walter Smith and Gordon Strachan – and we enjoyed a terrific record against them.

"The players have done superbly well. We had one defeat to Rangers – one loss to Walter – a draw and a victory. We have had two victories over Celtic and a draw and a defeat. I am proud of those stats; no-one can take them away.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"To put it all into perspective, we went to Ibrox with a couple of young players – one on 350-a-week basic, the other on 500-a-week basic – and they managed to come away from Ibrox with a fine performance and a victory.

"There have also been poor performances along the way as well – don't get me wrong – but I have enjoyed every single minute of it. I have given everything I have to this job, as I always will do, and time will tell whether or not I have made the right choice. I have thought long and hard about this. The players will now go on and do their best for the next manager."

Asked how he would respond to the perception that when the going got tough, he chose to walk away, Collins replied: "Some people will say I have bottled it, some will say I have done as well as I can. I feel I have done as well as I can. It has been a terrific challenge."

Although Collins has been linked with the vacant Scotland manager's position and may be a contender at Fulham if the London club should part company with Lawrie Sanchez, the former midfielder dismissed any talk linking him with other positions.

"Time will tell if I am still going to be a manager," he said. "It depends on whether or not the right offer comes in. But, at this moment in time, I am only thinking about going along to see my beautiful family."

Shaken chairman adamant club tried everything to keep their manager after budget dispute blew up at board meeting

ROD Petrie, the chairman of Hibernian, last night revealed how the Easter Road club tried in vain to change John Collins' mind about resigning as manager after a dispute over the scale of the budget for new players during the transfer window in January flared up at a monthly board meeting.

Clearly shaken by the unexpected turn of events during what he described as a "tumultuous" 48 hours even by the rollercoaster standards of football, Petrie told how he spoke personally to Collins in a bid to change his mind and asked what kind of transfer budget would persuade the manager to stay on. The former Scotland midfielder, however, was unyielding and could not be tempted to reconsider.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Outlining the sequence of events which began in East Lothian with a morning board meeting at the club's new 4.9million facility, officially opened just 24 hours earlier, Petrie recalled: "We had the monthly meeting at the training centre after enjoying a great day on Wednesday with the opening of a fantastic facility for the football club. None of us had expected this to be the outcome of those discussions.

"It was a complete surprise when he said he was resigning. There was considerable discussion among the board, with John there, on that not being the right thing and what could we do to avert John resigning?

"We asked him if he wanted to adjourn the meeting and come back later; if he wanted to ask for this and we could say that was available.

"What was the gap? What do you want, where do you want to spend it? Let's do the exercise, let's work it all out and make a rational decision. You want to resign on the basis there are no resources, so let's see what they are.

"But that just didn't happen. Strenuous efforts were made, particularly by me, to change his mind and work with us so that he could continue in post. That was what we all wanted. I had a meeting with him of considerable length.

"We had a discussion during the board meeting when he indicated he wanted to resign. There was further discussion and then we had an adjournment. There were one-on-one discussions with him to try and persuade him (to reconsider]. Everyone knows this is a first-class football club. We're in great shape on and off the field. Everyone here wanted to work with John and for him to continue his career in management to bring more success here. Unfortunately, that wasn't to be.

"John never quantified what he was looking for. He was invited to sit down with us after we'd adjourned the meeting and have a chat in a smaller group. We asked him to go through precisely what it was he wanted.

"Then we could say whether it was affordable or within the resources available to us. Should we be working to change the approach we had? But he didn't take that opportunity."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Petrie insisted that money was available for new players next month, that the manager had identified some targets and the process of recruitment was already under way.

"As a club, we want to try and continue on the playing side as well as developing the infrastructure," he added. "We've had discussions about targets and players coming in. We knew we didn't have to sell anyone, so there was flexibility in identifying targets who could fit in with our resources.

"We have to live within a budget. That budget is as competitive as any club in Scotland outwith Rangers, Celtic and Hearts, who are paying substantially more than anyone else at the moment. Money is available (for new players] and there are targets we wanted to bring in.

"There was a discussion at the board meeting about resources and we invited John to identify just exactly what it was he wanted. There was no-one at that meeting who didn't support John as the man to take the club forward. John has a lovely family to whom he's devoted. Sad and disappointing as it is, we have to respect his decision. None of us were aware of the timing of this until the meeting this morning. That was the first any of us knew about this. Out of that tumultuous morning, this was a big disappointment. The timing was not good for the football club. There are important games coming up and we have to get on with it and make the best of it.

"John has been a pleasure to work with and is a thoroughly professional man. He conducts himself in a very dignified and professional manner and goes about his business in the right way. We had an entirely positive working relationship. There was complete disclosure (from Hibs] about what the club was about both in terms of budgets and incentives. In just over a year, we've delivered a 5million training centre which is the envy of many."