TERRY BUTCHER has been backed emphatically to instantly rid Hibs of any lingering negativity and get everyone connected with the club smiling again. The mood around Easter Road has been predominantly gloomy for far too long now, with a notable disconnect between supporters and their team since the halcyon Tony Mowbray days almost a decade ago.
However, one former Hibee who worked under Butcher at Motherwell reckons the former England captain and current Inverness boss, who is in talks with Hibs to be named as Pat Fenlon’s successor, will galvanise the Easter Road fans in one fell swoop. “He’ll make everyone at the club start smiling,” said goalkeeper Graeme Smith. “That was certainly the case at Motherwell. He made the dressing-room like a family – that was probably the closest dressing-room I was ever part of and I’m sure he’ll make that unity at Hibs as well from top to bottom.
“He’ll look after the players and stick up for them and he’ll also get the best out of them. The players will enjoy working with him and the rest of the staff at the club will really enjoy having him about the place. He’s a real character.
“The fans will take to him straight away. They’ll be proud to have him managing their team. He’s a big personality and he’s known well all around the world. Everyone in British football knows Terry Butcher. He’s just a good guy and a good manager.”
Smith, nicknamed Buzz, was given his first-team bow at Fir Park by Butcher in 2005 and ranks him among the best bosses he worked under, particularly on a man-management level. “I’ve worked with a lot of good managers but Terry’s right up there as one of the best,” said Smith, now 30 and playing part-time football with Brechin City.
“Man-management-wise he’ll be good for every player. He’s probably the best man-manager I’ve had. He does things in a certain way that gets the whole club smiling. He’ll demand that everyone’s happy.
“He’ll also demand that they give everything every week, which is a given in football anyway, but I don’t think you’d get any players coming out and saying they dislike the guy.
“He just knows how to get the best out of players. Only certain people have got that ability, and Terry’s certainly one of them. If you ask the boys at Inverness, I’d bet they’d all tell you they love him. At Motherwell, even the boys that weren’t getting a game didn’t have an issue with him. He’s always straight down the line with you and he’s the sort of guy that you’d rather fight to get back into his team than fight against him. The Hibs players will love working under him.”
Butcher cuts a passionate figure on the touchline on a Saturday, but Smith is adamant that his old club will be getting a man who has far more substance to his management than simply ranting and raving at those who don’t pull their weight.
The goalkeeper was also keen to talk up the impact of Butcher’s assistant, Maurice Malpas, who is also expected to make the move to Easter Road.
“Terry’s not all about shouting and bawling,” said Smith. “People think he’s a ranter and raver, but he’s far more than that. Don’t get me wrong, if you step out of line, he can go through you and he won’t miss you, but he’s very clever at what he does.
“Tactically, him and Mo [Malpas] have always got a gameplan. They’re on the same wavelength as each other. Mo will be just as important as Terry himself. They work really well together.”
Smith spent 15 months at Hibs, working under John Hughes and, towards the end, Colin Calderwood. With only 15 appearances in that time as Hibs rotated four first-team goalkeepers, Smith didn’t feel he was given a fair crack of the whip.
Nonetheless, his time at Easter Road gave him an insight into just how big a club Hibs are and the level of expectation the players and management have to contend with.
Hughes was seen off the premises just months after finishing fourth in the SPL, as fans struggled to accept the decline in performance levels since Mowbray’s exhilarating reign just a few years previously.
While Smith knows it is unlikely Hibs fans will see a repeat of the swashbuckling football Mogga’s young team played between 2004 and 2006, he is adamant that Butcher is the best man possible to at least restore Hibs to the upper echelons of the Scottish Premiership.
He also expects Butcher, whose best work has come at so-called smaller clubs like Motherwell and Inverness, to take the jump to Hibs in his stride.
“Look what he’s done at Inverness – everything he’s touched in Scottish football has turned to gold, so I can’t see any reason why he can’t do the same at a well-run club like Hibs.
“Hibs are still seen as a top-four or five club, so of course they’ll want to be winning cups and finishing as high up the league, but that’s the same at every club.
“When I was at Motherwell, we never looked at anyone else as being bigger than us and I’m pretty sure that will be the same in his Inverness team.
“The budgets in the Scottish Premiership are all roughly the same outwith Celtic so you can’t say that Hibs should be expected to be doing much better than they are.
“I’m certain Terry will be a hit there, though. There’s no point in saying he’s going to achieve this or that because we all know how unpredictable football is, but he’ll certainly bring life and character to the place.
“Hibs have got some good players and it’s not like they’re struggling down at the bottom of the table, so I’d expect him to start getting results pretty quickly.”