Hibs director of football latest as key Easter Road figure explains timing of announcement
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Easter Road chief executive Ben Kensell in January announced plans to tweak the management structure by bringing in another senior figure with a focus on recruitment to work alongside himself and first-team manager Lee Johnson following an extensive review of the summer transfer window of 2022.
Hibs have been inundated with interest from prospective candidates, including former Easter Road striker and manager Mixu Paatelainen although there is yet to be any official contact with the Finn, but Kensell insists the decision will not be rushed.
"The Director of Football decision was quite straightforward. When we reviewed the summer transfer window Ron Gordon and I sat down to review it as a pair, and then it was reviewed by the wider board. We agreed that change was probably needed. We needed some more football support.
"The instability of having too many managers in such a short space of time brings about a change in playing personnel, methodology, and football strategy but not football objectives. The last two are very different. The strategy might be the way we want to play and having an identity to that, whereas the football objectives are wanting to finish in the European positions, go as deep as we can in the cup competitions, and run a financially-stable club that the fans can be immensely proud of, and we want to improve the infrastructure around the ground and the fan experience,” he explained.
Outlining a need to firm up recruitment and the different footballing departments, Kensell added: “We decided to announce it when we did because of the level of unrest and negativity surrounding the club then. I felt it was the right time to inform people of the direction of travel, knowing full well that we'd get someone in, but not in time for them to be able to influence the January window.
"It wasn't a knee-jerk reaction – we didn't wake up one day and decide that we wanted a director of football. I would like to have more of an update at the AGM next month but I'd imagine we'll have someone in post before the end of the season. I would be disappointed if we didn't have someone in by then, because they'll be heavily involved in the summer window. It’s something I'm familiar working with and was comfortable and happy to re-introduce but with different personnel at the helm. Credit to Lee as well because he wasn't brought in under that model, but was fully supportive of the change. We wanted that to be the case and as a result, we decided to formalise it and pull together a job description stroke candidate brief so that anyone interested in the role would know exactly what it entailed, and that was quite a detailed process.
"We already had a plan anyway. Anyone in football knows that your windows are formulated well in advance – if you're good at what you're doing. At the very end of one window, you're starting work on the next. There was a plan and a process and the process is ongoing in terms of longlisting, meeting prospective candidates, moving to a shortlist, and then the board will meet with them and appoint as soon as possible.
“The relationship between me, Lee, and the DoF is very important. Lee and I are already tight and the new DoF has to complement and work with us, and come in with real football acumen and views on everything. We challenge each other and hopefully they will challenge us too.”
Someone with a Hibs connection would be ideal but, Kensell warns, the club is wary of narrowing the criteria too much simply for the sake of it.
"There have been a lot of candidates so you have to sift through and get to a point where you have a really good shortlist. There are people with real credentials who could do a good job here who have declared an interest. It comes down to what you're willing to accept as a compromise.
“For example, do they have vast experience of the role, but not in Scotland? Do they not have that many years of experience as a DoF but have a recruitment bias and a strong knowledge of the Scottish game from working and or playing in it?
"It's been a varied nature of applicants and I think we and they know what categories they fall into. I wouldn't discount anyone who doesn't have a really good, valuable skillset. The shortlist might be eight, it might be four. We'll bring it down by eliminating those who don't have qualities that others have, based on the criteria that we've set internally.
"It's about doing what's right for the club, and it's a collective decision; a collaborative approach with loads of people involved. Personally, I want the right person for the job. We want them to have a good understanding of Scottish football and the football club. Do they need to be connected? It would be great if they were but if they're not, you can very quickly become connected to a club through your passion and will to be a success.
"I don't think there needs to be a connection. If we could find someone with a Hibs connection who was well-versed in Scottish football, experienced in the role, and had a recruitment bias, great. That would be the ideal candidate but very rarely does every person tick every box,” he added.
"I still think that a club of Hibs' size deserves to go out and try to find the best candidate with the best credentials to do the best job and that's what we're aiming for. It's a massively important role at the club and we have to get it right."