'Gutted' Hibs stalwarts rubbish talk of dressing-room unrest as they pay tribute to Jack Ross

In the aftermath of Hibs’ dismal defeat to Livingston in midweek there was talk among the Easter Road support that manager Jack Ross had “lost the dressing room”.

By Craig Fowler
Friday, 10th December 2021, 10:30 pm
Interim boss David Gray, right, with Jack Ross. The former captain paid tribute to the ex-manager after his sacking on Thursday. Picture: SNS
Interim boss David Gray, right, with Jack Ross. The former captain paid tribute to the ex-manager after his sacking on Thursday. Picture: SNS

Desperate for a victory with only one league win in nine games, the visitors put in easily one of their worst performances of the season in the 1-0 defeat as both Paul Hanlon and Paul McGinn were sent off for picking up a couple of daft second yellows. This evidence fuelled rumours the team was no longer playing for Ross and a change at the position was urgently required.

While the majority of fans ultimately got their wish, with the ex-Sunderland and St Mirren boss relieved of his duties on Thursday morning, those whispers emanating from the grapevine couldn’t be any further from the truth. The Hibs squad were both shocked and saddened to hear of the news of Ross’ departure after two years in charge.

The 45-year-old is widely regarded as one of the best man-managers in the country and this remained the case even as Hibs were free-falling down the table after going close to topping it earlier in the season. Club stalwart Lewis Stevenson, who’s had plenty of coaches during his long career in Leith, even went as far as to call Ross one of the best he’s worked with.

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“It was definitely shock. It was sadness,” he said. “On his CV, he’s finished third for the first time in 16 years, taken the team to two cup finals. The club’s in a far better place than it was. He’s brought young boys through who are going to be assets for the club. When you look back, he’s done a really good job. But it just shows you, you’re only six or seven games away on a bad run from losing your job.

“I don’t think people realise how good we had it. He was a real manager for the players. He would stick up for us, he looked after us. It’s a really good place to come and train – even if I’m playing or not playing, I wouldn’t say a bard word about him, because it’s been brilliant.

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“Training’s organised and it’s been enjoyable. He was really good, it’s just hard to put your finger on why things didn’t work out.

“He is up there with the best I have had and I can say that even though I have not been first choice. I still hold him in high regard. I am sure a lot of the players will feel the same. That is probably why we are genuinely gutted.

"It's the worst kind of time in football. You feel like you've let somebody down. You can have anger or regret, but it's the feeling of letting somebody down that's the worst feeling.

“As a squad we feel like it's our fault. The results haven't been great the last eight games or so. We didn't chuck it. It wasn't anything like that, we just couldn't get the results for him.”

The sentiments were echoed by the man tasked with replacing Ross, at least on an interim period. David Gray didn’t get much of a look-in under his former boss towards the end of his playing career but was an influential part of the coaching staff when he decided to retire and concentrate fully on his new career path.

And while Gray couldn’t do anything on the pitch to improve the flagging team’s fortunes, he still feels his own pang of guilt at how things have turned out.

“The first thing I want to say is the manager has been brilliant with me. He gave me the opportunity to become first-team coach and to start my career going that way, away from the playing side,” said the caretaker boss. “I was always very grateful for that. He has been brilliant with me from the moment I came in. Great to work with. Same with [ex-assistant John Potter].

“As a player, it’s a little bit different when a manager leaves. I felt a lot closer to the manager because you are involved from a decision point of view so you feel a bit of responsibility as well. It was a sad day yesterday, one that shocked me.

“The biggest compliment I can pay the manager is that there is no-one around the place who has ever said anything negative about him. That’s credit to him.

"I go back to myself. He very rarely picked me in my last year as a player, but I’ve not got a bad word to say about him. got on with him and he was always very good with me, on and off the pitch, even when I wasn’t playing.

“It really did hurt people around the place yesterday because of the culture and atmosphere he created.”

The change could very well leave the club without a permanent manager when they take on Celtic in next week’s Premier Sports Cup final. Even though he didn’t get the chance to finish what he started, Ross is still backing his former players to go all the way and lift the trophy.

"He came in and we had a meeting, which doesn’t always happen with managers,” said Stevenson. “Him and Pottsy came in and it was hard, because he was standing there in front of us and at the end of the day it was our faults that he lost his job.

"We are all going to give 100 per cent to David and to the club and for the old manager as well. He kind of said after he left to go and win the cup – it must have been so hard to say because I know if I was on his side you might not think that. But the players all left on good terms with him."

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