Hibs owner Ron Gordon lifts lid on his plans for the club next season and beyond
Considering the difficuties faced throughout a year that football, and the wider world, will be happy to forget, Hibs have come out the other side relatively content with their lot, while the remainder of the season offers plenty of scope to ensure this campaign is remembered with a smile.
Speaking on the day of the club’s AGM, owner and executive chairman Ron Gordon did not hide the fact fact that they, unsurprisingly in the circumstances, have had to absorb a heavy financial hit, but the US-based entrepreneur said that will not stop them investing heavily in the football department as they continue to reach for bigger and better targets.
“I don’t think we should ever not have more ambition. As a club, we will always have more ambition. But we have to go one step at a time. Finishing third is an accomplishment for sure. It is fantastic. But, again, it is not in the bag. We need to finish the job.
“But, if we do finish third, that is a major accomplishment. Cup performances in the last year and a half, certainly since I have been at the club, have been fantastic so we are very grateful for that and proud of that. But if we can finish in the top two [in the Premiership]? Why not? That is what we want to do. We don’t ever want to not have ambition.”
Like everyone else, Hibs were forced to cut their cloth and responded by laying off employees or placing them on furlough, while players and staff were asked to defer wages, but the Easter Road club also chose to redirect money into signing the likes of Kevin Nisbet, opting for quality over quantity in terms of the squad make-up and making calculated decisions on how to ensure the best return on those their investments.
That should come in handy, with Ryan Porteous and Josh Doig also expected to attract sizeable bids in the future.
“You go through ups and downs throughout a season,” explained Gordon, happy that their approach to building the squad this term has aided and not hampered their on field ambitions of finishing third and chasing silverware. “But, it’s a great achievement.
“We’ve done a couple of things last year, intentionally. So I don’t want you to think this was just a fluke.
“Our starting line-up last year was significantly older, the average age of the starting eleven was 28 and a half years. We wanted to reduce that and now it’s about 26 and a half.
“We have a more balanced, younger squad now and we’ve done some work to fill out the right spots and I think the squad’s in a very good place.
“We’ve still got work to do to continue to improve it but I think Jack and Graeme [Mathie, sporting director] have done a really good job in filling the right holes and bringing the right kind of calibre of player to the club.”
And despite the financial hits, which he hope can still be recouped through insurance payments, the success of this season’s business has convinced him that the squad is worth investing in.
“If we can still double the budget by 2023 that would be really, really good. But even if we don’t get to doubling it, we can up it substantially and that would be good.
“We are planning to hopefully do that for this season. It will be an increase for sure. But a lot will depend on when we get back to fans in the stadium because ultimately that is going to fuel whatever we do.
“We have to be somewhat cautious on how we go into spending. But we are being conservative, I think, in our assumptions that we are going to have full stadiums or the ability to have full stadiums sometime in the early part of next year.
“Hopefully, it will be earlier than that. So let’s see what happens.”
But, the promise of European action and a place in the group stages would bolster the coffers in the meantime.
Already sure of a shot at a European qualifier, winning the Scottish Cup would, or Celtic or Rangers winning it if they see out the season in third, would guarantee them European fixtures into December.
“Opportunities like this don’t present themselves as readily as you would hope. We just need to take advantage of the possibility of being in Europe.
“We have to finish the job in front of us but being in the group stage of any European competition is a financial windfall for the club.
“Strategically at Hibs, our number one goal is to increase our revenues substantially because I think that’s going to most consistently allow us to compete at the top end of the table.
“As you know, one of our goals was to compete in the top four of the Premiership and the Cups and be in Europe every year.
“It’s not going to happen every year, but I’m hopeful we can consistently be in Europe.
“That will also, I feel, change the profile of the club, both from a brand perspective and an image perspective, but financially as well.”
And that in turn then enhances their threat domestically.
“We want to stay competitive...we need to keep some of our better players and perhaps we need to add a little bit to our staff because they are going to be playing many more games.
“So, that’s an important consideration and we will make that decision [on selling, keeping and recruiting quality players] when the time comes. But, I don’t think we are going to short change our ability to compete. Priority number one is always to compete.”