'Foley deal can move us up pecking order' - Hibs boss on billionaire investment

Thumbs up - Foley is one step closer to Hibs deal.Thumbs up - Foley is one step closer to Hibs deal.
Thumbs up - Foley is one step closer to Hibs deal. | Getty
Head coach sees positives in Bournemouth owner's buy-in

Hibs boss Nick Montgomery believes an “exciting” investment by billionaire Bill Foley will give the Easter Road club a chance to shake up Scottish football’s established order. And the head coach - who already has one eye on recruiting players currently “out of our reach” - says Hibs should be flattered that the American sports mogul has chosen them as an addition to his multi-national football portfolio.

The full SFA board heard a presentation from Ian Gordon and Hibs CEO Ben Kensell at Hampden yesterday, as the governing body considered whether to relax their “dual interest” concerns and allow Foley to buy a minority stake in the Scottish Premiership side. As well as holding a majority stake in Premier League outfit Bournemouth, Foley’s Black Knight group have a minority holding in French side Lorient and have just been granted an A-Licence for a new expansion franchise in Auckland, while talks are also ongoing over investing in a Dutch team.

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Foley has spoken about his ambition to turn Hibs into the undisputed third force in the Scottish game, believing that he can deliver a virtual lock on European qualification – guaranteeing UEFA football every season - in return for a relatively minor investment. He sees the Scottish side as a vital piece in a far bigger recruitment operation aimed at widening Bournemouth’s ability to acquire and position players in the best environment for their development.

Admitting that he’d spoken to friends in football who had worked under the sports-mad 79-year-old, who led his Las Vegas Knights ice hockey franchise to Stanley Cup glory last season, Montgomery said he’d only heard good things about a man with the power to seriously strengthen Hibs. And he sees a definite upside to Hibs, who will still have the Gordon family as the largest shareholders, working in a multi-club set-up.

The former Central Coast Mariners gaffer explained: “We know the history, the fanbase, and what a fantastic club this is. But there are other big teams in the competition - and we’re definitely down the pecking order, in terms of budgets, from those top teams.

“We want to be one of the biggest teams every season fighting for those top three or four spots. To do that we have to perform on the pitch.

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“What goes on off the pitch, there’s been a lot of work on that since (late chairman) Ron Gordon took over the club, and now with (his widow) Kit, Ian, and Ben as CEO. They’re always working hard, looking at ways to continue to grow the club off the field.

“Because we know the reward can then come on the field, where we can possibly upgrade the training ground, look at players out of our reach - and maybe build a stronger squad moving forward. These are things that will possibly progress in the future.

“I’ve never spoken to Bill. I’ve followed him buying the team in Auckland, I know people involved in that. That’s exciting for Bill and his group.

“I’ve got some good friends at Bournemouth, as well. Simon Francis (assistant technical director at the Cherries) is a good friend of mine and an ex-teammate. I’ve kept in touch with him over my career. It’s nice to be talked about with other clubs, but I’ve never spoken to Bill, unfortunately.”

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Expanding on what his contacts in the game had said about Foley, Monty revealed: "They’ve said that he's obviously a really successful guy and loves football. If he's willing to invest his money in football ... That multi-group set-up is part and parcel of football. There's a lot of that now and a lot of positives involved in that.”

With Foley taking a global approach to building his stable of clubs, Montgomery said Hibs should view his interest as a compliment, insisting: "That's the most exciting thing of all; you're talking someone of Bill's stature who could realistically choose any club in the Premiership to sponsor or be involved in. But that fact he has chosen Hibs doesn't surprise me because of the history and size of the club, and the fanbase. There's a lot of things to like about Hibs. My job is to make sure I get it right on the pitch and try to win games of football.

“I actually didn’t know there was a meeting today, so thanks for that! To be honest, maybe it was mentioned but I don’t know what day it is at the minute, it’s all rolling into one. It’s exciting for any club to have external investment. What that will look like, I’ve no idea because it’s just conversations that are going on.”

Montgomery underlined the need for investment as, not for the first time, he detailed the lack of extra funding currently available for the January window, revealing: “In terms of the budget, right now, we don't have the means to go out and bring players in at the minute - but we know we are going to lose a couple of players in January as well (Rocky Bushiri, Martin Boyle and Lewis Miller are taking part in AFCON and Asian Cup respectively) so it's a bit of a balancing act at the minute in terms of looking at the squad depth coming into that February period.

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“I know if the right players come up, they fit the club and the budget and the structure, then I know I can have those conversations with Brian (McDermott, director of football), Ian and Ben. But as of now, we haven't had any serious conversations.”

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