How Ian Gordon's Hibs role will change following Brian McDermott arrival - shift in focus, ownership, Kensell link

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Brian McDermott was installed as Hibs’ new director of football on Thursday morning and wasted no time in getting down to work.

The former Arsenal scout and Reading and Leeds manager had admitted he was ‘buzzing’ for the recruitment chat he was due to have following his introduction to the media last week but he also had a packed weekend, attending the CAS Elite Under-18 League derby between Hearts and Hibs at the Oriam on Friday night that finished in a 2-2 draw before taking his seat in the directors’ box for the men’s first team victory over St Mirren on Saturday. He followed that up by taking in his first Hibs Women home game – having been in attendance for their narrow defeat by Glasgow City in midweek – as Dean Gibson’s side suffered the loss of a late goal scored by former Hibee Lizzie Arnot to lose 1-0 to title challengers Rangers.

Hibs chief executive Ben Kensell said at McDermott’s unveiling: “It’s a board appointment. Whilst you don’t have Malcolm McPherson up here as chairman you’ve got Ian [Gordon] in the room, Lee Johnson, and myself and the whole board were involved in the process so while it’s been quite protracted, we’ve actually been very, very thorough and lots of people have had their eyes over Brian and had a lot of contact with him, and other candidates who were very, very strong.”

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McDermott’s appointment brought to an end a four-month search for the right person. Hibs had made mistakes and a rejig at the top of the club’s leadership structure would hopefully help to ensure such mistakes were not made in the future, according to Kensell when he announced the decision to bring in a director of football.

Hibs CEO Ben Kensell, left, speaks to director of football Brian McDermott during Saturday's 2-1 victory over St MirrenHibs CEO Ben Kensell, left, speaks to director of football Brian McDermott during Saturday's 2-1 victory over St Mirren
Hibs CEO Ben Kensell, left, speaks to director of football Brian McDermott during Saturday's 2-1 victory over St Mirren

The 62-year-old has plenty of scouting experience, having worked on recruitment for Reading, before eventually taking the reins as manager; Arsenal, where he ran the rule over the likes of William Saliba and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Celtic, where he worked below the radar post-Covid. Youth coaching roles, including working with boys and girls, mark him out as well placed to lead on academy and women’s football matters at Hibs.

McDermott said: “It’s a real challenge but I’m looking forward to it. There are so many good things in place already and I just want to add to that, bring value, and add to it as best I can. I think people will have an opinion on what success looks like, and that’s up to them, but for me I want to be there for people; I think the recruitment side of the job is important, that we try to recruit the best that we can for what the manager wants, and I’ll be very much involved in that along with the recruitment staff we have here already.

"I’ll be involved with the academy and try to help by watching the academy staff and player. We’ve got the women’s team as well who I watched on Wednesday night [against Glasgow City] and again at the weekend. It’s an eclectic mix and I’ve worked with a fantastic director of football at Reading, Nick Hammond, so I know how the role works and it’s just something I’m really looking forward to.”

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McDermott’s role, and the recent appointment of Kit and Ian Gordon to the club’s board, did raise the question of how the management structure at Hibs would be altered. Kensell paid tribute to both for how they have dealt with the recent loss of husband and father and late Hibs executive chairman Ron Gordon and revealed that his son would be taking up ‘a broader role’ within the club’s hierarchy, having previously served as head of recruitment.

Ian Gordon will be working more closely with KensellIan Gordon will be working more closely with Kensell
Ian Gordon will be working more closely with Kensell

"What we’ve got to remember is that Ian’s done a phenomenal job in really tough circumstances over the last 12 months, but especially latterly. I can’t imagine how that would feel having not been in that position before so I have huge admiration for how Ian and the family are dealing with what they’re dealing with,” Kensell said.

"Ian is massively involved in the football club and I think he’s going to take on a broader role in terms of understanding the overall functions and running of a football club. He’ll definitely be working more closely with me, shadowing me, and I’ll be guiding him through how you can run a football club. He’ll be working with Brian on the football side of things and will effectively take on an executive director role. Ultimately, with Kit, he is the owner of the football club and we should be respectful of that, and their focus on continuing to invest in the club, improve the club, and take us forward in their father and husband’s legacy is admirable.”

The arrival of McDermott would appear to have plugged some gaps in the club’s leadership structure without having to drastically change things behind the scene – vital at a time when the Gordons are still coming to terms with their loss while vowing to continue their husband and father’s legacy in a bid to take the club forward on and off the pitch.

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"We’re very, very fortunate to have the owners who we have and what we’re adding in Brian is some football acumen, some experience – which is what every football club needs – and I genuinely believe we’re bringing in someone who has a very, very good all-round knowledge of the different functions on the footballing side,” Kensell continued.

"All three of us – myself, Brian, and Lee – have real clarity of what our different roles are but we’re all fiercely protective of the culture we’ve built, and I think that’s the most important thing because together, you can achieve an awful lot more than when you’re fractured.”

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