How good is Hibs chief Leeann Dempster’s track record at hiring managers?

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Hibs fans aren’t particularly enamoured with their board right now. While many agreed it was perhaps time for Neil Lennon to go, what with the unsatisfactory results this season, the handling to the whole affair was messy and supporters were largely left in the dark as their head coach didn’t resign nor was sacked.
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The best way to get the fanbase back onside is to correctly identify the right replacement. If they can succeed in bringing in a manager that will improve on what Lennon built then the drama of the last few weeks will be reduced to a footnote in the history books. If that doesn’t happen they must be prepared for this saga to become a rather large stick fans will beat them with for years to come.

Just as well for the supporters, and chairman Rod Petrie, that in Leeann Dempster he has a chief executive with a rather impressive track record of hiring managers.

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Hibs chief executive Leeann Dempster. Picture: Greg MacveanHibs chief executive Leeann Dempster. Picture: Greg Macvean
Hibs chief executive Leeann Dempster. Picture: Greg Macvean

Dempster was first hired by then Motherwell owner John Boyle back in 2008 to be the club’s general manager. This basically entailed the running of things and reporting to the board.

Boyle, along with secretary Stewart Robertson (now at Rangers), was responsible for the hiring of Jim Gannon, who arrived as Mark McGhee’s replacement in the summer of 2009. This is the only “poor” appointment that has been made at a club while Dempster has been there. Even then, Gannon was terrific at identifying players to sign - bringing in the likes of John Ruddy, Lukas Jutkiewicz, Steve Jennings and Chris Humphrey - he just couldn’t talk to them.

It left a solid platform for the next boss coming in, which was former Scotland manager Craig Brown. While Dempster didn’t sound out the experienced coach about the job, she was the one who ultimately hired him.

Brown reinvigorated the squad. After losing five in a row to end 2009, Motherwell went on a tear at the beginning of the following year, going undefeated in 12 league games and propelling themselves in a European battle. Even though they would ultimately fall short in the league - despite the epic 6-6 comeback against Hibs at Fir Park - they would achieve their goal in the end as Dundee United’s Scottish Cup triumph opened up the final Europa League place for the team finishing fifth.

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When Brown left for Aberdeen the following campaign, it was time to find another manager to carry on his success. Stuart McCall’s hiring raised a few eyebrows initially as he’d only had one previous job in management, spending two-and-a-half years at Bradford before being sacked. Results weren’t immediately impressive either with Motherwell dropping out of the European places as they finished in sixth. He would, however, go on to be an undoubted success at Fir Park, leading them to third place the following campaign before back-to-back runners-up spots.

By the time McCall quit the club, Dempster had already moved on to Easter Road. Her first act was to play a significant role in the jettisoning of Terry Butcher following relegation, with the club previous insistently they would be looking to hold on to the embattled boss, before hiring Alan Stubbs as his replacement.

While Stubbs’ may have failed to get out of the Championship at two attempts, you cannot call this hiring anything but a massive success as he brought the Scottish Cup back to Leith. He was then replaced by Lennon, who won the second tier comfortably and added a few key pieces to the base created by Stubbs to give the fans one of their most beloved teams in the last two decades as crowds once again soared at Easter Road.

Dempster has shown a willingness in the past to go beyond the Scottish football coaching carousel and the reported interest in Michael Appleton and Paul Heckingbottom would indicate she’s doing so again. We can’t know for certain whether the next manager, whomever he is, will be a success. But history would suggest there’s a pretty good chance he will be.