Hibs board's clear message to manager as billionaire investor leads review

Director Ian Gordon, Director of Football Brian McDermott , Manager Nick Montgomery and  Chief Operating Officer Ben Kensell during the Hibs AGM earlier this year.Director Ian Gordon, Director of Football Brian McDermott , Manager Nick Montgomery and  Chief Operating Officer Ben Kensell during the Hibs AGM earlier this year.
Director Ian Gordon, Director of Football Brian McDermott , Manager Nick Montgomery and Chief Operating Officer Ben Kensell during the Hibs AGM earlier this year.
Monty given clear target after ‘unacceptable’ plunge into bottom six

Nick Montgomery has been warned that “results need to improve” following talks with Hibs directors. But the manager will be given a chance to prove himself as part of a wide-ranging review of football operations – despite his team’s plunge into the bottom six being branded “unacceptable” by the Easter Road board.

In a statement released this evening, the Hibs board confirmed that billionaire Bournemouth owner Bill Foley’s Black Knight group will lead a root-and-branch evaluation of the football department at East Mains, with a focus on raising standards and expectations. The American investor, who acquired a 25 per cent holding with the express intent of making Hibs the undisputed third force in Scottish football, has been invited to share his expertise by the Gordon family, still the majority shareholders and ultimate decision makers.

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There is an acceptance, at board level, that results this season – first under Lee Johnson, sacked in September, and then his successor – have not met minimum expectations of supporters or directors. The review will cover everything from pre-season onwards, taking due account of the crisis left behind by Johnson and the mess inherited by Montgomery, who won’t be expected to carry the can for the entire campaign.

But, in the wake of last weekend’s late collapse at Motherwell, with concession of an injury-time goal from a winning position killing off all hopes of making the top six, it’s been made clear that Monty MUST put a positive run of results together over the closing stretch of post-split fixtures.

Key points and potential changes being considered by the review:

  • Work will be led by representatives of Foley, whose multi-sport empire includes a controlling interest in Bournemouth, a minority stake in FC Lorient and the licence for a new A-League franchise in New Zealand, as well as leading the Las Vegas Golden Knights ice hockey team to Stanley Cup glory in just their sixth season – exactly as the owner predicted.
  • Recommendation that the department undergo some restructuring, with director of football Brian McDermott possibly moving into a more recruitment-focused role suited to his scouting background, with another DOF recruited.
  • Implementation of a full knowledge-sharing protocol between Hibs and the clubs in Foley’s stable, with Bournemouth providing specific help on recruitment. Hibs will carry a final veto on any signings.
  • Expected to report back to board with recommendations in late May/early June.
  • Montgomery will be expected to show that he can turn results around in closing stretch of fixtures, with finishing seventh considered a realistic expectation for a club with hopes of reaching European group stage football on a regular basis over the coming seasons.

In a statement titled “A Message from the Board of Directors” released this evening, the powerbrokers said: “Like all Hibs supporters, we believe that a club with our stature should, as an absolute minimum, finish in the top six. Ending the season in the bottom six is simply unacceptable. In the aftermath of Saturday’s draw with Motherwell, we came together to understand what happened this season and what are the necessary steps to move the club forward.

“With that in mind, we will conduct a full review of the Club’s football structure in conjunction with Black Knight Football Club. The review will be a comprehensive evaluation of the entire football operation to ensure we perform at the highest level.

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“We have also held detailed discussions with Nick Montgomery to understand what has gone wrong during the current campaign and mutually agreed that results this season have been disappointing. There’s an understanding that results need to improve.

“Considerable progress has been made at the club off the pitch over the last 12 months. That being said, we want to assure supporters that on-pitch progress and performance are at the forefront of our minds. We understand that this needs to be addressed urgently and the experience provided by our new partner, Black Knight Football Club, will help us improve in all areas.

 “Lastly, we would like to thank every single one of you for your support through this incredibly challenging campaign. Your backing has been unwavering, and the Club is extremely grateful. We will continue to work tirelessly to deliver results our supporters can be proud of.”