Leeann Dempster admits there is pressure on her to get her first managerial appointment at Hibs right as she prepares to lay the foundations for a Championship promotion push.
The new chief executive today began the search for the club’s eighth manager since Tony Mowbray took the reins a decade ago after Terry Butcher was axed yesterday in the wake of relegation from the Premiership last month.
Former Hibs captain Ian Murray is the early bookmakers’ favourite for the job, with Stuart McCall, Alex McLeish, Owen Coyle, Tony Mowbray and Guillaume Beuzelin other names to have been touted.
Dempster is adamant she will remain “open-minded” with regards to potential candidates, but explained that a prerequisite for the role is understanding and appreciation of the demands and expectations that will come from managing a club of Hibs’ stature.
She told the Evening News: “It’s a lot of pressure and it’s going to be a big, big decision for the football club. I really enjoyed my time at Motherwell and the relationship I had with everybody there, but with the greatest respect to my former club, it’s a different scale here.
“I’ve already got a sense of what the supporters expect here – you only have to look at the size of the stadium to see the scale and scope of the club.
“From both a managerial perspective and a player perspective, we need to bring in people who can handle the expectations at this club. It’s a big football club, with a massive fan-base but obviously great expectations as well.
“There’s a lot of pressure for people who come to work at big clubs of this size and anybody coming here will have to be aware of that. I’ve certainly experienced and felt it in the last seven days. It is unique, let’s put it that way, and for anybody considering coming here we will have to make sure we get the right person, because there is a lot of attention and a lot of pressure.
“The supporters haven’t enjoyed the best of results in recent years and it’s understandable that they will react quite quickly when things are not going well. We need to hit the ground running and make sure we get things right first time.”
With the Hibs players due to return to training a week on Monday as they prepare for their Challenge Cup opener on July 26, Dempster admits it’s imperative that they get the new manager in early enough to allow him to replenish a squad which has been decimated by the exit of 15 players since the end of last season.
“Timing-wise, [Butcher’s exit] is absolutely not ideal,” she admitted. “We can’t rush it because we need to get the right person in, but at the same time we must do it in a timely fashion because we need to make sure we’ve got access to the bigger playing pool. I’ll focus on [the managerial appointment] process now, that and nothing else. I’d ask the supporters to be a little bit patient because there’s a series of steps we need to go through but we’ll let them know as soon as anything happens.”
Dempster believes that her reputation for picking successful managers at Motherwell will stand her in good stead, with McCall in particular having excelled at Fir Park. The chief executive explained that she can only be certain of a candidate’s suitability once she has had a chance to meet him and sense if he can strike up a working relationship.
“Whether it’s been good judgment or good luck at Motherwell, let’s hope there’s a bit of both and I can find the right person who fits the atmosphere at the club, the style at the club and the people at the club,” she said. “It worked for us when I was at Motherwell – Stuart was a terrific individual and that relationship was strong but he was a great fit for the club and I need to get the choice right here as well. People have thrown Stuart’s name at me because that’s an obvious question but I need to be much more open-minded than that as I start to look for the right person for this post.
“The honest truth is I’ve not thought about potential candidates yet. It’s only now that I can start thinking about who’s potentially coming in. Rather than having a shortlist of people ready and focusing on them, I think we need to be more open-minded than that. I’ve been through this process a few times and what tends to happen is we have a criterion for the type of individual we want and, inevitably, when the news gets out people start putting themselves forward and agents get in touch with us.
“We’ll look at both aspects, people who would like to be considered and also others who we think perhaps have the qualities. It really just depends on the individual and you can only tell that when you meet them and find out if you have a good dynamic with them. When you meet somebody you know if you have a rapport with them and if they understand the club.”