He’s barely had time to stop for a quiet glass of his favoured red wine, but Terry Butcher couldn’t be happier with how his first week as manager of Hibs has gone. The big Englishman is in his element roaming about his new base at East Mains and it’s safe to say he’s already proud to be a Hibby.
“It’s been exhilarating and entertaining and everything else,” he said of his fledgling days in charge of the Edinburgh club. “Between training, watching games and looking at houses, I’m knackered by the end of the day. I haven’t had time to have a drink – I’ve had more coffee than I’ve had wine lately, which is unusual for me. It’s tiring, but it’s brilliant.”
As well as appointing a pretty handy football manager, Hibs look to have found themselves the perfect ambassador. His enthusiasm for his new club is as genuine as it is infectious. In just a week at the helm, he has already done more than most of his recent predecessors to enliven the place. The air of gloom his been lifted by Butcher’s natural ability to embellish the positives. From waxing lyrical about the training facilities and the club’s history, to talking up the quality in the squad he has inherited, Butcher has instantly made the whole club feel better about itself.
He wants everyone to know how special a club he has joined and is eager to get involved with everything Hibs-related. Just two days into his job, when many others would have been seeking some respite after a whirlwind move from Inverness, he was in attendance at a book launch at the stadium last Thursday night, mingling with fans and former players. Butcher is all about immersing himself in the culture of his club and he wants everyone else at Hibs to be of a similar mindset.
“The Erich Schaedler book launch was a very good night,” he said in an exclusive interview with the Evening News. “I got a very good reception from everyone. It was good to see Pat Stanton, Jackie McNamara senior and Kano [Paul Kane] and other ex-players there. You’re part of the club, so it’s important that you go out and meet the fans and other people connected with the club and show that you’re committed. Hibs has a fantastic history and there are a lot of good Hibees out there, so there has to be a real bond and affinity between the current players and staff and the former players and the fans. I got a letter from a Hibs fan who thought I’d made a big mistake coming here, but generally the response from the Hibs fans has been tremendously positive. I’ve also met a lot of Hearts fans in the city and had photos with them and they’re saying stuff like ‘don’t be too harsh on us in the New Year derby’.”
He wants to make the club more friendly and accessible than it has been in recent seasons. Under Colin Calderwood and Fenlon, Hibs became one of the least media-friendly clubs in the country, to the point where the latter even took the step of making East Mains, which has always been a nice place to conduct interviews, a no-go area for outsiders, including press. The one press conference a week was instead staged at Easter Road and they were invariably uninspiring affairs. In that regard, Butcher is the polar opposite of his recent predecessors. He loves talking about football and, eager to show off his new workplace, he has thrown open the doors of East Mains and intends to make Hibs a far more welcoming club. Already the sense of staleness appears to have vanished.
“We want to have a good relationship with the press, so we can let the fans know what we’re doing,” he explained. “Fans love to read about what the players and management are thinking, so we need to be an accessible club. I’ve never been one to keep my club a closed shop. It’s nice to be nice. We want to be a friendly club and get Hibs prominent on the back pages of the papers.”
As a newspaper columnist and occasional pundit himself, Butcher is, admittedly, more media savvy than many of his predecessors. At a time when most Scottish clubs are experiencing a downturn in attendances, he understands the value of good publicity. “I do my column every week for the Sunday Mirror and I did the England-Poland game for the radio. I loved that. I’m always open to that sort of thing. It can help put Hibs on the map.”
While gaining Hibs some extra column inches or airtime may not have any direct bearing on their performances on the pitch, such switches in policy are all small parts of trying to get the house in order and make the club as a whole more vibrant going forward. “You come into a club like this and everything hits you straight away,” he says of his Easter Road baptism. “So many people want your time and want to know what you’re thinking and what you want to change, so you have to make a lot of decisions pretty quickly. If we can get most of the small decisions right, hopefully that can add up to the bigger picture of success on the pitch.”
Still in a state of flux off the field as he tries to find a new home for his wife Rita and his pet dog Fritz, Butcher is currently living in Fenlon’s old flat in Morningside. As someone who loved what the picturesque Highlands had to offer during his five years there as manager of Inverness, Butcher is similarly enthralled by the prospect of living in or around Scotland’s capital city. “I’m really enjoying Edinburgh so far,” said the 54-year-old. “I’d only ever really been in and out of Edinburgh in the past, so this is the longest period I’ve spent here. I’m starting to find my way about already; it’s a brilliant city. There’s plenty nice wine shops and stuff like that; you can’t help but enjoy yourself here. We’ve been out and about to one or two places, but we’re still trying to find our feet. We don’t know where we’re going to live yet, but we’ve certainly got loads of good choices. We want to get down here as quickly as possible and put down roots so we can give everything to the club. I’m staying in Pat’s old place in Morningside.
“When George Burley was Scotland manager he used to live in Morningside, so we used to come down and stay at his. We got to know Morningside well, so that’s one area we’re looking at. We love East Lothian as well because, when we had our hotel at Bridge of Allan, we used to go to North Berwick between Christmas and New Year. We’d stay in Dirleton or Gullane and go to the Marine Hotel’s Christmas Dinner dance, which was good fun. It’s a good area.”
Butcher was in no danger of going stale up in Inverness, but he admits that, just as he hopes the Hibs players will be lifted by his arrival, the change of scenery has served to inject him with fresh impetus. “Sometimes in football you need something new and fresh to stimulate you,” he said. “It can help get you on the front foot and I think Hibs need that because they have been on the back foot for too long now. Even myself as a manager, I certainly wasn’t on the back foot at Caley Thistle, but I can benefit from a new challenge. Already I’m waking up in the morning thinking ‘oh yeah, I’m going to be at the training ground today.’ It’s all different and it’s exciting.”