Hibs begin search for second manager of 2019 after Paul Heckingbottom's departure
Jack Ross installed as early favourite for Easter Road hotseat
Hibs are searching for their second new manager of 2019 after Paul Heckingbottom’s unfulfilling eight-and-a-half-month reign was terminated following a poor start to the season.
Former Alloa Athletic, St Mirren and Sunderland boss Jack Ross is the early favourite to replace the 42-year-old in the Easter Road hotseat.
Heckingbottom was back home in Yorkshire yesterday afternoon preparing to return north to take training at East Mains this morning when he received a phone call around 3pm from chief executive Leeann Dempster informing him that he was being relieved of his duties.
The decision to axe the former Barnsley manager and his assistant Robbie Stockdale was taken in the wake of Saturday’s 5-2 Betfred Cup semi-final defeat by Celtic and following a poor start to the league campaign in which Hibs had won only one of their 11 matches and sat just a point off the bottom of the table.
The news was eventually confirmed by the club in a very brief statement released around 5pm. It read: “Paul Heckingbottom and Robbie Stockdale have been relieved of their duties at the club. Head of player development Eddie May will take charge on an interim basis - supported by assistant coach Grant Murray and Steven Whittaker. Supporters can expect further comment from the club in the coming days.”
Heckingbottom replaced Neil Lennon in mid-February and sparked an immediate upturn as he won six of his first eight Premiership matches in charge to elevate Hibs from eighth place to fifth. Thereafter, however, he managed to win only one of his next 16 league matches, including none of his last ten, a run which ultimately cost him his job. He leaves with the team languishing tenth in the Premiership, just a point off the bottom of the table.
It remains to be seen how swiftly Hibs will look to appoint their next manager but Ross has already emerged as the clear favourite for the job. The 43-year-old former Hearts youth coach was sacked by Sunderland a month ago after just over a year at the Stadium of Light. Although he failed to win promotion from League One with the Black Cats, his stock remains high in Scotland by virtue of his impressive work with Alloa and St Mirren.
Others in the frame include Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson, who is also on Hearts’ radar, and Hibs’ 2016 Scottish Cup-winning hero Alan Stubbs, who is currently out of work and has confirmed his interest in the vacancy.