The change of majority shareholding from Sir Tom to US businessman Ronald Gordon brought the curtain down on the longest-running show in Scottish football, bringing to a positive conclusion 28 years of careful and progressive custodianship.
Perhaps we shouldn’t have been too surprised. Sir Tom – force of nature though he remains – isn’t getting any younger as he approaches his 79th birthday. But the changing of the guard from this proud son of Leith to Ron Gordon did make the city pause and catch its breath – particularly for those of us of a Hibee persuasion.
Ron seems a thoroughly appropriate man to take on the mantle. Enthusiastic, committed, football-loving and sharing the values of community and service with Sir Tom, along with the will and the wherewithal to take the club forward. His arrival has been greeted with understandable enthusiasm.
However, it’s been good to see the outpouring of sincere thanks and praise from Hibs fans to Sir Tom for the magnificent job he has done since saving the club in 1991. He deserves every bit of praise going.
It’s equally good to see similar sentiments expressed towards the former chairman, Rod Petrie. As Sir Tom himself attested, Rod has been integral to the huge positive changes at the club during that time, and it simply would not have happened without him. I’ve met Rod many times, and I have to say that in my view he always put the club first, never himself.
The scale of their achievement? When Sir Tom rescued the club from the insolvency of its parent company all those year ago it was, in his own words, “bust”. The club had no assets. It owned a deteriorating, dilapidated ground. The players trained on public parks. It was at rock bottom. What it did have was Sir Tom, committed supporters on its board and in the stands, and – within a few years – Rod Petrie as chief executive and then as chairman.
Since then? The club has seen the redevelopment of Easter Road to become what is widely accepted as the best stadium in Scotland outside of Glasgow, A 20,000 seater, UEFA fully compliant ground that supporters are rightly proud to call home. At East Mains, the club owns its own magnificent training centre, with plans to carry out further work there which will see it become comparable with the best in the UK, never mind Scotland.
And according to reports, the club now has assets of £25 million. And – to me – just as important, the club is now not only deeply rooted in the community, it is also proactively and positively engaged through the Hibernian Community Foundation and the GameChanger public social partnership with NHS Lothian and others.
A far cry from 1991.
The ball has been passed to Ron, and I for one wish him well. Working with a talented team at Easter Road so ably led by chief executive Leeann Dempster I hope and expect to see further progress. There might be the odd bump on the way, but I think exciting times lie ahead.