Four things in Brian McDermott's in-tray as former Arsenal scout and Reading boss takes Hibs job

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Hibs finally have their director of football, with ex-Arsenal scout and former Reading and Leeds United manager Brian McDermott joining the senior leadership structure at Easter Road.

The 62-year-old was unveiled on Thursday morning, bringing to an end a four-month search for, as chief executive Ben Kensell said in January, a figure with ‘football knowledge, contacts in the game and the ability to make [Hibs] better… someone who will help ensure we correct some of the things we got wrong and can move us forward’.

Hibs may have just five games of the season remaining and European football to chase, but there is plenty of work to do in terms of transfers, contract talks, and much more. Here’s what McDermott’s in-tray is looking like…

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Hibs enter a new era with Brian McDermott at the helmHibs enter a new era with Brian McDermott at the helm
Hibs enter a new era with Brian McDermott at the helm

After watching his side succumb to a meek new year derby defeat at Tynecastle, manager Lee Johnson told more than a few home truths in his post-match remarks, accusing the club of ‘historic mistakes’ and bemoaning aspects of the summer’s transfer activity. He spoke of needing to ‘get ten out to bring in one quality player’.

"This is a wonderful club full of potential with a great fanbase, good training base and a brilliant stadium and it deserves more. We need to make way better decisions all over the place,” he said. “I just think we need to add better quality and work our budget better. There are a lot of average squad players and too many. We have made mistakes, it's as simple as that."

January brought with it a number of exits and just a handful of new faces but CJ Egan-Riley, Matthew Hoppe, and Jimmy Jeggo have all contributed since signing on the dotted line. Kensell stressed the need for a DoF with a recruitment bias and McDermott will have no shortage of contacts in the game thanks to not just his management spells with Reading and Leeds United, but also his time as Arsenal’s chief international scout. Players he watched closely during his time at the Emirates include Erling Haaland, when he was at Molde in Norway; Barcelona and Portugal winger Francisco Trincão; Gabonese forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and French defender William Saliba, who moved to the Gunners from Saint-Étienne.

His knowledge of the Scottish game is not as patchy as some Hibs fans may fear, and his experience and contacts in the UK and further afield should not only prevent Hibs from making as many risky transfer decisions, but may also allow them to cast the net wider with a bit more certainty – and we already know he will be heavily involved in the summer window.

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Hibs have a number of players out of contract this summer. but talks are already ongoing with some, including defensive stalwart Lewis Stevenson, but Kevin Nisbet’s future remains uncertain. Come the summer he will be into the last 12 months of his contract, and every suggestion so far has been that he will leave Easter Road so that the club can avoid a repeat of the Ryan Porteous saga.

Nisbet came close to leaving in January before U-turning on a projected move to Millwall, and has no shortage of suitors in the UK and further afield. McDermott may not be able to influence the outcome of that particular transfer situation, and it is not an identical scenario to Porteous, but he will ideally help the club avoid further scenarios where they find themselves in a lose-lose situation over bright young talent. At the moment there are a handful of youngsters whose futures remain unresolved at the time of writing, but McDermott’s arrival may speed up the process.

Conference League and academy

Talk of a newly-created Conference League in Scottish football has been gathering pace in recent weeks, with a lot of opposition to it from clubs and officials further down the pyramid but also those at the top of the food chain.

Hibs chose not to go down the B team route when Celtic, Hearts, and Rangers negotiated to have development-age sides competing in the fifth-tier Lowland League, but will McDermott’s arrival prompt a rethink? Or will he see the value in the existing model where Hibs combine Reserve League and Cup fixtures and development games as well as potentially sending youngsters out on loan?

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Fans will also be keen to know what the future holds for the crop of talent in the academy, particularly given the under-18s’ title win last season, and success in the Reserve League this term. The UEFA Youth League may have been beneficial in terms of affording the youngsters a chance at continental glory, and they did well to make it to the play-off round, but their European involvement meant they couldn’t go on loan. We can debate the merits of five games in Europe and a handful of development or Reserve matches versus a half or full season playing regularly on loan in the SPFL lower divisions, but with some exciting talents at the under-18 stage this year, fans will be watching closely to see what the club has in store for them.

Hibs Women

Hibs Women have taken giant steps forward this year following the decision to bring them under the main club’s umbrella but with Celtic and Rangers way out in front in the SWPL, Glasgow City still a tough nut to crack, rivals Hearts likely to finish ‘best of the rest’, and a catalogue of injuries, it has been a difficult season for Dean Gibson’s side so it will be interesting to see if McDermott’s role covers the women’s team too.

Just his extensive network of contacts could help on a transfer front while previous employers Arsenal and Reading both have strong teams in the Women's Super League that could be used as a reference point. Money is ultimately the difference-maker but McDermott’s knowledge may help bridge the gap to the ‘big three’.

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