Rod Petrie believes Hibs’ investment in infrastructure is poised to bear significant fruit under the “galvanising” influence of Terry Butcher.
The Easter Road chairman made a rare appearance in front of the media yesterday as he unveiled his latest new manager.
The much-maligned Petrie delivered a measured appraisal of Hibs’ current state, allied to a pretty impressive defence of his own reign as chairman.
With the club in a sound financial position off the park in relation to many of their rivals and with a squad widely deemed one of the strongest in the league on paper, Petrie is confident the appointment of Butcher can vindicate the Hibs board’s decision to invest heavily in a state-of-the-art training complex and upgrades to the stadium which have brought the capacity to over 20,000 mark.
“Terry and Maurice [Malpas] are a very experienced management team and are absolutely the right people to capitalise on what we’ve got; galvanise the football club,” he said. “We’ve got a £5m training centre. We’ve got a 20,000-seater stadium. We’ve got a good squad of players.
“The club has progressed from where it was a number of years ago. Now, with an experienced and talented management team, hopefully we can kick on from here.
“There is an opportunity, we have now put ourselves in a position where we can kick on from here and grasp that opportunity. There is no limit on the ambition of this football club. You make changes and you take steps and sometimes when you take steps it takes a little while to get the fruits of that labour. I think we have all the components at our disposal to be a very successful football team.”
Petrie, right, knows there are plenty of critics who hold him accountable for the fact Hibs have seemingly changed managers more frequently than most other clubs while he has been at the helm. The chairman, however, dismissed the notion that Hibs are any more unsettled than many of their rivals when it comes to the hiring and firing of bosses and was keen to trash the notion that he only appoints duds.
“You make the best appointment you can from the candidates available at the time,” he said. “Three of our former managers have gone on to manage in international football; two have gone on to manage in the English Premiership. So we have had talented people in the past. If you want to look at the 12 clubs in the Scottish Premiership, since 1998 the average number of managers each club has had is eight. Terry will be our tenth manager. Dundee United have had ten managers. Hearts have had 12 managers. So in comparison we’re not particularly out of kilter.”
Petrie insists the reigns of Butcher’s immediate predecessors, Colin Calderwood and Pat Fenlon, were all about halting a decline which had set in before they arrived and that they should not be dismissed as flops. He has maximum respect for the latter in particular and believes he has laid the foundations for Butcher to restore Hibs to the upper echelons of Scottish football.
“Colin took over when we were on a bit of a downward spiral. He arrested the decline, but couldn’t take it forward,” explained Petrie.
“Pat took it forward from where it was. He certainly made an improvement. We’ve been to two cup finals. He’s taken it to a level, and he decided the time was right for somebody to take it beyond that because of his respect for the football club and the supporters and the people that we have here.
“So I think we’re on an upward curve. We’re not at the top by any manner of means, but I think we have arrested the decline, turned it round, moving in the right direction, and now can kick on in a positive vein from here on an upward trajectory. That’s what we want to do.”
As a man with no desire to court publicity, Petrie’s name only appears to crop up when Hibs are having a tough time of it – which has been too often for his liking in recent years. He is hoping the appointment of Butcher will mute the dissenting voices once and for all.
“It is not my job to be out front, I am not looking for a profile and to be quoted every day,” he said. “To me, football should be the thing which defines a football team – the performances, the results and the manager. The manager is the face of this football team, it is not a personal thing for me.
“If no-one is talking about me then things are going well, the objective is to be invisible. It should be about the players, the performances and the manager and if that is where the focus is then things are going right.”