Colin CALDERWOOD “signed his own death warrant” in the eyes of Hibs fans when he continually refused to wholeheartedly commit himself to the Easter Road club in the summer, it was claimed today.
The former Scotland defender alienated himself from the supporters as he continually declined to distance himself from speculation linking him with a move to Nottingham Forest and Birmingham City with many believing that by doing so he was actively encouraging their interest.
And, insisted Mike Riley, chairman of the Hibs Supporters Association, by the time Calderwood began to make the right noises, few fans were inclined to believe him, feeling instead they were lumbered with a manager who didn’t want to be at the club.
After taking over from John Hughes last October, Calderwood saw Hibs, a side which had finished fourth the previous season, crash to tenth place in the SPL table and humbled as they were knocked out of the Scottish Cup at the hands of Second Division Ayr United.
With that record, claimed Riley, all that was going to save Calderwood’s neck was a dramatic up-turn in results, one which never came, Saturday’s 1-0 defeat the manager’s 26th in 49 matches, leaving Hibs just one point off bottom place and prompting a demonstration against chairman Rod Petrie and his directors. Riley said: “Colin Calderwood never reached the fans, there was a feeling he let us down badly at that start of the season when, with all that speculation, he didn’t simply come out and declare he was Hibs manager and had no intentions of going anywhere.
“Instead we had three weeks during which he never said he wanted to stay and by the time he started saying the right things no-one believed him.
“We felt we had a manager who didn’t want to be here. It was a bad mistake on his part but the board should also have sorted it out, given him the ultimatum to declare his commitment to Hibs or to get out.
“To my mind he signed his own death warrant.
“The only thing that was going to save him was results and he didn’t get them.”
Pointing out Calderwood had produced just one home win in the League since February, Riley claimed he had now left Hibs facing a battle to avoid the drop. He said: “I honestly think we are serious contenders for relegation. I look at Dunfermline on Saturday and other teams like Inverness, St Mirren and so on and they go on the park and fight.
“I don’t see that in this Hibs team. Alex McLeish had a better team than the current one when we were last relegated and that is really worrying.”
However, Riley admitted he was initially impressed by Calderwood. He said: “He came round unannounced to a dance at the Supporters Club, took the mic and spoke very well to a packed hall. He’d only been in the job a month but he was great, very impressive.”
Now though, as Riley pointed out, the incoming manager will have to wait until the January transfer window opens before being able to make any changes to the squad he’ll inherit from Calderwood – exactly the same situation the former Spurs and Aston Villa star found himself in when he replaced Hughes.
By then Hibs will have played seven more SPL matches, giving the new man less than half a season to turn things round.
Riley said: “It’s absolutely unbelievable, deja vu, but not a surprise because the fans were voting with their feet. But we are now in the exact same position we were in this time last year. We face another period of transition with the new manager, whoever he might be, no doubt seeking to stamp his authority on the squad by bringing in his players.
And Riley insisted Petrie, who warned off Forest and reportedly knocked back an offer of £300,000 from Birmingham, as he backed Calderwood a few months ago, had to accept his share of culpability.
He said: “I think the fans’ confidence in him has gone right out the window.”