Hibs were today facing a day of intense negotiation as they bid to persuade Inverness Caley boss Terry Butcher to make the move to Easter Road.
The big Englishman, as revealed by the Evening News, became the immediate frontrunner to become the Hibees’ latest manager after Pat Fenlon’s surprise decision to quit but the Capital club were only given permission to speak to him about the vacancy last night. But, while it seems certain the former Rangers and England captain will be Edinburgh bound, Caley have vowed to do all they can to hang onto him and hope he remains loyal as he did at the beginning of the year when he rejected a move to Championship club Barnsley.
Butcher is out of contract at Inverness at the end of this season but a new deal is on the table for the 54-year-old, who has led Inverness to a second successive League Cup semi-final against Hearts.
And club chairman Kenny Cameron has his fingers crossed that the chance of leading the Highland team to their first major trophy may prove too tempting for Butcher to resist.
However, Cameron gave Butcher the green light to speak to Hibs after his manager expressed his desire to listen to what Rod Petrie has to say with the Easter Road chairman, having identified the former centre-half as his No. 1 target, keen to push through a deal as quickly as possible, recognising that while recent results have been disappointing there is still much to play for this season.
Coincidentally, Hibs face Caley in Edinburgh on Saturday, but, in a club statement, Hibs confirmed Fenlon’s assistant Jimmy Nicholl will again be in charge of the team as he was for last weekend’s clash with Motherwell.
A claim Butcher had agreed personal terms with Hibs on Monday provoked a furious reaction from Cameron, who revealed his manager had told him he hadn’t spoken to anyone while Petrie is recognised as someone intent on conducting his club’s business in an above-board manner.
Confirming Butcher was free to speak to Hibs, a club statement released last night read: “Hibernian FC today confirmed that, following an approach, chairman to chairman in the appropriate manner, permission has been received late this afternoon to speak to Terry Butcher regarding the vacant managerial position at the club.
“Both clubs have an important league match on Saturday with three vital points at stake. Chairman Rod Petrie met Jimmy Nicholl at the Hibernian Training Centre this morning and confirmed that Jimmy and the backroom staff should prepare the team this week and take the match on Saturday.”
While today’s talks will centre on agreeing personal terms with Butcher, there will also be the question of compensation for the remainder of his contract with Inverness. Negotiations will also centre on Butcher’s assistant Maurice Malpas and scout Steve Marsella, who has been credited with identifying many of the players who have taken Inverness into the top six of the Scottish Premiership again this season.