Michael Weir: Hibs made right call - but I don't see a quick fix

Our Hibs columnist gives his view on Paul Heckingbottom's departure and who he wants next

Tuesday, 5th November 2019, 4:45 pm
Paul Heckingbottom departs Hibs with the club languishing in the lower echelons of the Premiership. Pic: SNS

I don’t think there was any doubt that Paul Heckingbottom had to be sacked as Hibs manager.

There’s no question about it, the club has gone flat over the past year or so and something had to be done.

The manager had to go because the bottom line is he wasn’t getting results. But I just worry that we’ve been set back so badly that even a change of manager might not be enough to get us back on track, certainly in the short term. For me, it feels like we’ve been set back years, both as a football team and in terms of the club’s connection with the support. The atmosphere at Easter Road has been flat for some time now and I worry that it’s going to be very difficult to rediscover that feelgood factor we had when Alan Stubbs and Neil Lennon were in charge.

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Positive results are ultimately the most important thing that the new manager must bring, but I think it’s important that we get a big character that the fans can relate to and are inspired by. It’s imperative that we re-engage the support because it’s undoubtedly gone stale recently. After so much hard work to rebuild the club since relegation, we can’t allow things to drift back to the days when we were struggling to get crowds of 10,000 to Easter Road.

The style of play wasn’t good enough under Heckingbottom. Hibs supporters like to be excited by their team at the weekend. They like to see players taking people on and generally making life difficult for the opposition, but we weren’t seeing enough of that. It was all pretty humdrum stuff. When you’ve got a mixture of a poor style of play and bad results, you’re not going to last long as Hibs manager. We need to start becoming a forward-thinking team again. We need to get a bit of character back in there because the team lacks identity.

The league position is obviously not great at the minute. I’m not too concerned about that at present because there’s still a lot of football to be played this season. I’m not panicking about relegation just yet, but we certainly need to do something pretty radical to set the place alight again. We need a strong managerial appointment and we need to back that up by landing some quality players in January because the squad at the moment simply doesn’t look up to scratch.

I don’t see a quick fix. Even under a new manager, I don’t see us suddenly going on a five-game winning running. The priority for the new man has to be to try and hang in there as best he can and pick up a few points before he gets a chance to start sorting this mess out in the January transfer window.

I’m open-minded about our next appointment but I definitely feel we need a big character to revitalise us, someone with the spark and mentality of Neil Lennon. It needs to be someone who grasps the expectations of the Hibs support and is able to galvanise everyone behind him.

There are a lot of good managers out of work at the moment so we need to consider all possible options. Jack Ross is the one being spoken about just now and he has obviously done well in Scotland before, but there are loads of managers out there who would be interested in the Hibs job.

We shouldn’t rule anyone out just because they may have been sacked in their last job. For some reason in this country, if a manager has a bad year, they suddenly get tarred as a bad manager. There will be plenty good managers out there who may have been sacked in their last job and are looking for a good club to rebuild their reputation at so we shouldn’t solely focus on candidates who are flying high right now. Look at Alex Neil, for instance. Two and a half years ago he was viewed as damaged goods after being sacked by Norwich City. Now he’s got Preston North End top of the Championship and he’s a target for bigger clubs. There will be plenty good managers out there perfectly equipped to do a job at Hibs. We need to be open-minded about this appointment because it’s absolutely critical that we get it right if we’re to get ourselves back on track.