The David Duff and Jim Gray era at Easter Road proved to be one of the most tumultuous in Hibs’ history. Swindon-based lawyer Duff, who had been brought up a supporter in Trinity, became, at 33, the club’s youngest chairman.
Gray, his brother-in-law, was brought in from managing a construction company to be managing director and a “new tomorrow” was promised.
Changes came thick and fast on and off the field as Duff, who also had interests in property and leisure, showed immediate sign of good intent.
Neil Orr was bought from West Ham United for £100,000, a further £350,000 was spent on goalkeeper Andy Goram while Gareth Evans arrived from Rotherham and, later, so too did Steve Archibald who had fallen out of favour with Barcelona.
Striker Keith Houchen cost £300,000 from Coventry City, getting off to a spectacular start with a goal at Tynecastle and Brian Hamilton came from St Mirren for a similar sum.
Sheila Rowland had become Scottish football’s first female club director and, in 1988, Hibs had become the first Scottish club to have its shares traded on the Stock Exchange, one of three subsidiaries of Edinburgh Hibernian plc with the other branches, involved in property and leisure, to generate the long-term finance which would, it was hoped, enable Hibs to compete with the Old Firm.
However, by the June of 1989 Hibs’ debt had spiralled to around £4.5 million, prompting Hearts chairman Wallace Mercer to propose a “merger” of the two Edinburgh clubs. Hibs fans united to fight off that proposal but by the summer of 1990, Mercer had 66 per cent support from the shareholders for his £6.2m bid.
But the Hibs board would not negotiate with him and he dropped the idea, Sir Tom Farmer eventually won control with a £2m bid, the club having gone into receivership owing its creditors £7m.
The new crest, introduced at the start of the 1989-90 season, came to represent that sorry saga. Intended to reflect Easter Road’s famous slope, it became known as the “Planet Saturn” badge while others saw it more akin to a beer bottle label. It was replaced with today’s crest in 2000.