Hibs and the Ian Gordon saga: Quashing fans' fears over 'dangerous' dynasty

They say hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Friday, 6th May 2022, 7:00 am

With the benefit of it, Hibs might have handled the Ian Gordon saga a lot differently. The son of owner Ron has been pilloried on social media for just about everything that has gone wrong with the club recently.

The unease with which fans view the younger Gordon can be traced back to October last year, when he was installed as Head of Recruitment following a spell working as a scout for the club, and added to the club’s directory online.

There was no fanfare; it wasn’t even addressed before the page was quietly altered to remove any reference.

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The optics weren’t great, compounded by the fact that across the city, former Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov had installed his son in a key position some a little over ten years ago.

Senior club figures accept that part of the problem is Gordon’s title. A lack of clarity has led some supporters to assume that he is in overall charge of signings. ‘Head of Recruitment’ does suggest an autocratic approach at HTC but his day-to-day job at the Ormiston training complex has been considerably over-exaggerated.

The fans’ view of Gordon’s role in the recruitment department is of mounting concern to Easter Road chiefs as they seek to dispel the myths surrounding the 29-year-old’s contribution to the running of the club.

His perceived role on the so-called transfer committee (more on that later) has also been questioned but Gordon’s involvement in recruitment is focused on helping to compile a list of potential targets for the manager to consider.

Ian Gordon has been the focus of some supporters' ire in recent weeks

The Hibs hierarchy is frustrated by the mistaken belief among some supporters that Gordon jnr is playing a significant role in the day-to-day running of the club.

While he was involved in the initial stages of the search for a new manager, he will play no part in the final decision with chief executive Ben Kensell and owner / executive chairman, and Ian’s father Ron Gordon carrying out the final-stage interviews supported by selected members of the Easter Road board – which, for the avoidance of doubt, doesn’t include Ian.

Mueller move

The ill-feeling intensified with the pre-contract signing of Chris Mueller from Orlando City. A shared nationality led some fans to put two and two together and arrive at the incorrect conclusion that the Chicago-born winger had been parachuted in by the Gordons against the management’s wishes.

Hibs CEO Ben Kensell will, along with owner and executive chairman Ron Gordon, lead the final-stage interviews for the new manager

That the Mueller move didn’t work out in the way player or club wanted heightened suspicions.

Similar accusations were levelled at Gordon concerning some of the January signings. How many were Shaun Maloney’s choice, and how many had been foisted upon him by the younger Gordon? (Answer: none)

It is no secret that Harry Clarke and Elias Melkersen were both on the club’s radar prior to Maloney coming in, while Ewan Henderson was also being monitored.

But Maloney still had to green-light the transfers, just as Jack Ross did before him, and the new manager will too. Work is naturally ongoing but no new signings or contract extensions will be made until an appointment.

Ron Gordon previously confirmed his son does not 'make the decisions' at Easter Road

As with previous figures tasked with looking after recruitment for the Easter Road side, not every signing will work out. The trick is ensuring that the majority do.

Transfer ‘committee’

Privately, the Hibs hierarchy are baffled by the manner in which misconceptions about Gordon’s role have snowballed.

The recruitment department, led by Gordon, compiles a list of viable transfer targets which is passed onto the manager; he then has the final say on which players are pursued with Kensell carrying out the contractual side of things. It differs little from the vast majority of clubs.

Scouts are still being dispatched to games to run the rule over potential signings which sits alongside data and analysis research and agent recommendations to identify best fits for the team.

The elder Gordon seemed bemused when quizzed about his son’s involvement with the club.

"He’s just one player in the recruiting department – he doesn’t make the decisions. He co-ordinates the vetting of the options the club has,” he explained.

‘Committee’ may have been an inadvisable word to use when Kensell explained the recruitment process at Easter Road during an appearance on the ‘Down the Slope’ podcast. He stated that transfers weren’t ‘dictated by one person’ and that ‘no one person at the club makes a final decision on anything’.

The CEO added: “The manager will have a view, Ian will have a view, and Ron will have a view. By virtue of that, it is a committee because it’s a decision by committee.”

Perhaps with hindsight Kensell would concede that he might have chosen his words more carefully.

Knock-on effect

Regardless of how the ‘transfer committee’ comment was intended, it becomes a stick with which to beat the club.

Reports emerged earlier this week that Roy Keane, an early favourite with the bookies for the Hibs job, had distanced himself from the role citing uncertainty over the club’s approach to recruitment.

This had the effect of angering fans who wanted the Irishman appointed, and ringing alarm bells for supporters who hadn’t wanted the former Sunderland boss but feared the ‘transfer committee’ line would put off other potential candidates.

The Evening News understands that the only contact between Keane’s camp and Hibs was from his representatives signalling an interest and the club acknowledging as such. But it matters little. Managerial searches are, at the best of times, a minefield.

The new manager will be able to put their stamp on the team, backed up by a larger wage budget and transfer kitty. Hibs know it needs to be a successful summer to move on from the 2021/22 campaign and are adamant they will get it right.

Confusion over Gordon jnr’s role may well linger but, like so much of the last nine months, Hibs have to draw a line under it and move on – and perhaps the fans do as well.