The unedifying chants that thundered down from the Easter Road stands as to where chairman Rod Petrie should go, followed by a spontaneous demonstration calling for the entire board of directors to be sacked following the defeat by Dunfermline weren’t the reason.
No, Colin Calderwood was sacked because of an abysmal record as Hibs boss, one which today sees the Easter Road club a single point off bottom place in the SPL table with a genuine concern among those supporters who gave such vent to their anger and frustration that success this season will be simply avoiding relegation.
Now chairman Rod Petrie and his fellow directors are seeking their sixth manager in barely as many years, well aware they must shoulder some culpability for a club which is seen as a model of financial stability finding itself in such a state of flux on the field.
As with previous appointments, the arrival of former Scotland defender Calderwood was viewed with optimism, someone with a credible record in management at Northampton Town, Nottingham Forest and, as assistant to Chris Hughton at Newcastle United.
Instead, the Hibs board find themselves confronted with a side which slumped from the fourth place achieved by Calderwood’s predecessor John Hughes to tenth at the end of last season and one showing few, if any signs, of improving on that dismal finish in the opening 14 matches of this.
Fans have been voting with their feet, deserting the club in their droves at a time when, like every other club, Hibs are having to deal with the effects of the economic crisis. It leaves Hibs with a 20,000-capacity stadium, thanks to the completion of that impressive new East Stand, looking more and more like a white elephant with every passing match.
As depressing as results have been, Calderwood’s failure to connect with the Hibs support was evident to all, the ex-Tottenham and Aston Villa star losing the backing of many with his steadfast refusal to fully commit over the summer when linked with the assistant manager roles at Nottingham Forest or Birmingham City.
Only months into his new job, Calderwood could have killed off such speculation by simply declaring that, despite the obviously tough job he had before him, that he wasn’t interested in moving on, that his entire focus was bringing success back to Easter Road.
Rather than do so, Calderwood indulged himself in a typically convoluted dialogue in which he questioned whether, faced with two bags of sweets, you wouldn’t like a peek inside each one to see what it contained before arriving at a decision.
By the time he declared his undying love for Hibs and his desire to do the job for which he had been hired, the damage was done. Only results were ever going to be a redeeming factor; instead the Hibs support got more of the same, every sign of a step forward followed by two backwards.
Week after week, Calderwood expressed his frustration at players being able to turn it on in training from Monday to Friday but unable to do so when it mattered most matchdays, an observation which was quickly wearing thin as the stats continued to stack up against him.
By all accounts, Calderwood was well-regarded by his players, David Stephens declaring he was “the man” to turn things around in the wake of Austin McCann’s winner on Saturday, but it is the fans, and in turn his employers, that any manager must impress.
To that end Calderwood simply failed, 49 matches in charge, 26 defeats and only 13 wins. Certainly, there were moments of optimism, his first win a stunning 3-0 victory over Rangers at Ibrox, that run of five straight wins which vanquished any thoughts of a relegation dog-fight last season and, more recently, three points at St Mirren followed by a promising draw at Celtic Park.
They were, however, only fleeting moments, with the darker ones far outweighing those faint rays of sunshine, a Scottish Cup exit at the hands of Second Division Ayr United which included a run of seven games without a goal at the start of this year, the failure to win any of the final six split matches which included two defeats by relegated Hamilton Accies.
And so it continued into this season, the 3-2 win over St Johnstone Hibs’ first at home in the League since February, and today, as Calderwood packed his belongings into black bin bags, still the only one of a wretched season.
Despite his poor record, Petrie made the decision amid the summer speculation to back his man, his use of highly selective statistics and a reference to the “unworkable legacy” he claimed Calderwood had inherited understandably grinding with Hughes who, many might reflect, may wonder with some justification as to why he, like Mixu Paatelainen before him was “mutualed,” the euphemism often used in football to explain a parting of the ways.
Petrie’s conviction, or perhaps hope that Calderwood could turn things around, proved to be unfounded. Today Calderwood has been consigned to an entirely forgettable chapter in the club’s 136-year history.
It’s the future which now counts, with many fans now openly questioning the competency of Petrie and his fellow directors to get it right this time.
Doing so, however, is easier said than done, recent experience showing choosing a manager is something of a gamble. John Collins, who walked the day after the opening of the £5 million training centre and having led Hibs to CIS Insurance Cup glory in 2007, Paatelainen and Hughes were all greeted with near universal approval.
And yet, by the time they left, both Paatelainen and Hughes had fallen out of favour – to greater or lesser extent – with the Easter Road faithful, proving no candidate comes with a cast-iron guarantee, hindsight, as in all walks of life, invariably proving to be the most informative of factors after the event.
Calderwood was no rookie manager. He had a wealth of experience and, as with previous appointments, due diligence had been carried out, stringent checks having been made with all sorts of contacts the length and breadth of the country before he was unveiled, the homework done and the candidate’s performance at interview convincing Petrie and Co they’d got their man.
Indeed, the surprise appointment of Tony Mowbray was possibly greeted with the greatest scepticism of recent managerial appointments and yet he brought some of the most enjoyable seasons of football witnessed at Easter Road for a long time.
Like his predecessors, Calderwood was backed by his board, the two transfer windows in which he was in charge culminating in a total revamp of the squad, but faced with a failure to improve results, dwindling crowds and a manager who had little if any connection to the supporters, there was only once conclusion.
As much as it may be seen that the directors have given into “mob rule” following Saturday night’s demo, nothing could be further from the truth. Calderwood has gone purely and simply because he failed to deliver.
Highs and lows
OCTOBER 11, 2010: Calderwood appointed Hibs manager.
NOVEMBER 11, 2010: First win of Calderwood’s reign is shock 3-0 success at Ibrox.
JANUARY 18, 2011: Hibs crash out of the Scottish Cup to Division Two side Ayr. Calderwood subsequently strengthens squad with six new players.
FEBRUARY 2, 2011: Hibs defeat St Mirren 2-0 and go on seven-match unbeaten run.
MAY 14, 2011: Hibs lose 3-1 at home to Aberdeen and end the season in 10th place. The team fail to win any of their last eight SPL games.
JUNE 2011: Calderwood is courted by both Nottingham Forest and Birmingham City for of assistant manager. Chairman Rod Petrie rebukes all interest from the two clubs and supports his manager in public, saying he is the right man to take Hibs forward.
JULY 30, 2011: Hibs defeat Inverness 1-0, their first-ever win at the Caledonian Stadium in the Highland capital.
NOVEMBER 5, 2011: Hibs lose 1-0 at home to Dunfermline, in what turns out to be Calderwood’s last match.
NOVEMBER 6, 2011: Calderwood is sacked as Hibs manager.