Massive interest in Hibs hot seat

Rod Petrie
Rod Petrie
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Hibs will today begin in earnest the search for a successor to Colin Calderwood after chairman Rod Petrie revealed the Easter Road club had already received 40 applications for the vacant managerial post.

And while he won’t directly be involved in the process, that task having been handed to executive director Scott Lindsay and managing director Fife Hyland, Petrie revealed the club will follow the exact same procedure as in the past.

As expected Petrie and his fellow directors faced intense questioning as to why Hibs are seeking a fifth manager in little more than four years as they faced shareholders at the club’s annual general meeting last night.

In quick succession Calderwood, John Hughes, Mixu Paatelainen and John Collins have all headed for the exit door, leaving the Easter Road board open to accusations they were to blame for the “churn” of managers.

Although the finger was pointed at Petrie as the leading figure in the club, the chairman insisted the appointment of a new manager wasn’t simply his “pick”, but that of the entire board.

Lindsay and Hyland, he insisted, would be seeking advice on possible candidates from a variety of sources, a process which fellow director Bruce Langham, a former chief executive of Fulham and Aston Villa, insiste was no different to that followed by clubs in the English Premier League.

Petrie said: “We speak to people elsewhere, people whose names you would recognise and whose opinions I hope you would respect, it’s all part of identifying the right candidate.” And it was by following that route, Hibs had settled on former Scotland defender Calderwood less than 13 months ago. Langham said: “We are sorry Colin did not work out.

“I remember before he was appointed a respected footballing person saying why would you let a person of that experience go by you.

“We had every reason to feel it would have worked out, we are sorry it did not. There is a tried and trusted way of doing things, we don’t do anything different from anyone else, we follow a pretty well trodden path and we will follow it again before making the decision.”

Having faced a small demonstration which numbered only around a dozen fans outside the Famous Five Stand asking club owner Sir Tom Farmer to get rid of him, Petrie, unsurprisingly, found himself at the centre of most questions.

One irate shareholder claimed that by his calculations Petrie had lost Hibs around £500,000 by his failure to accept Birmingham City’s bid to lure Calderwood – who was also wanted by Nottingham Forest – to the Midlands during the summer and was now likely to have to pay the sacked manager compensation for the remainder of his contract.

Petrie, however, replied: “There was interest from two clubs. One wanted to pay less than we paid Newcastle United to secure his services, there were mixed messages from the other and we were told very clearly by Colin’s agent that was unlikely to be the right move for him.”

The chairman did agree, though, that the way Calderwood had dealt with the situation, failing to reject the speculation over a number of weeks, had resulted in him “losing the supporters” with one shareholder last night describing his behaviour as “embarrassing”.

But with the investment which had already been made to support Calderwood – allowed to bring in players in both the January and the summer when Garry O’Connor and Ivan Sproule returned to the club along with new signings such as Sean O’Hanlon – the directors felt it was in the best interests of the club to let him continue as manager. Saturday’s defeat by Dunfermline was to change that view, the board meeting the following morning before informing Calderwood he was out. Petrie said: “Indifferent sporting performances have cost us a manager, simple as that. We said this year had to be better and after a faltering start we went into the Dunfermline game three points off a top-six place.

“Gradually, it seemed, we were clawing our way up the table, a win at home to Dunfermline was expected. It’s a competitive League, seven points cover three-quarters of the clubs but this is a results-driven business and the board decided Colin was no longer the right man to take this club forward. He was given every chance to succeed but when it came to the point, the board acted decisively.”

Petrie and Lindsay also countered suggestions that Hibs managers are subject to interference from the board and are appointed “on the cheap”.

The chairman said: “The manager has the authority and autonomy to make football decisions. The board support and help but the player budget is his and his alone. We backed the manager just as we have backed previous managers. Players that come to the club are wanted by the manager and any player who leaves, especially in high profile moves to other SPL clubs only do so with the express approval of the manager. If he does not want it to happen, it does not happen.”

Much was also made of Calderwood’s family remaining in Northampton with one shareholder demanding his replacement be required to live in or near Edinburgh, an opinion with which Petrie expressed some agreement. But while Calderwood did do a degree of commuting, Petrie insisted he had done all that could be asked of him in terms of fulfilling his obligation as Hibs manager. saying: “The time he spent on the training pitch with the players was thoroughly professional.” Pointing out that it is common in England for football managers to have their families settled in one place while they take on the burden of commuting given the precariousness of the job, Petrie admitted he’d prefer the new boss to live in the Capital, giving him the chance to assimilate fully with the supporters and realise what the club was all about. The behaviour of players in attracting headlines for all the wrong reasons was broached with one shareholder describing the club as having “an epidemic of big-time Charlies”, to which Lindsay insisted Hibs treated such incidents very seriously but dealt with them privately.