Paul Heckingbottom opens up on pressure of being Hibs manager

Easter Road head coach will stick to his principles as he battles to change fortunes of club

Saturday, 2nd November 2019, 6:00 am
Paul Heckingbottom knows football management is a results-driven business. Pic: SNS

Paul Heckingbottom insists he will stick to his principles as he attempts to turn things round at Hibs.

The manager is under intense pressure ahead of this evening’s Betfred Cup semi-final clash with Celtic at Hampden after a run of ten games without a win in the Premiership.

However, he remains philosophical about his current predicament and is adamant that he can’t allow his decisions to be swayed by public opinion.

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Asked how he was finding the criticism he has been subjected to, Heckingbottom said: “It is difficult. I try to hold a lot back, you have to hold a lot back, professionally, but, 100 per cent, you don’t want to be in that position (getting criticised). But it certainly drives you and narrows your focus. You have to be happy going to bed at night, thinking: ‘Right, have I done everything I can?’ You have to be like that.

“I’m pretty principle-led. I like to know that, if I’ve worked as hard as I can, I’ve done all I can and I’ve behaved in a way that my family can be proud of, that’s all I can do.

“As a manager, a lot of things are out of my control. But I’m in control of how hard I work, how I behave, how honest I am with people. That’s probably what you always go back to. Or I do. There are certain things I wouldn’t bend, in those principles, just to stay in a job. They are more important to me. But one thing you can make sure you do is fight and fight and fight. Because the biggest thing you can do is be the role model – and behave in a way you’d want everyone else to follow.”

Heckingbottom explained that anyone who chooses to get involved in football at any level simply has to accept that they will always be judged by others.

“There is no point in worrying about your job (security) when you are a manager,” he said. “The one thing you have to get your head around, and what you have to understand, is that you get judged on everything. But you’re probably in control, depending on the club you’re at, of at most 60 per cent of it.

“That’s probably the most difficult for me, personally, to get your head around. But you have to because that’s how it is. It’s pointless worrying about it or trying to base decisions on it. You have to make decisions based on the longer term, all the time. As soon as you just focus on the immediate things - this, this and this - it’s the things you’ve ignored that will get you the sack six months later anyway. So just keep doing the right things.

“I had a chat with an ex-England international before coming to Hibs and we were talking about all things management, football and coaching, just picking each others’ brain. He said something to me which I hadn’t even thought about: from when you are seven years old, everyone has an opinion on you. Then you get older and people judge you against the other good players, then it’s whether to sign you as a schoolboy and whether to keep you. Then it’s whether to give you a YTS, then are you good enough for pro? Good enough to be in the 11. Then you have 30,000 people shouting at you, saying you’re no good or you are good. That’s ten-fold when you are a manager. It gives you a bit a bit of perspective.

“So you can be thickened, hard-skinned and grown up in that sort of way. You can become hardened to it and you need to keep your distance from that all. If you let every little thing that’s said about you get to you, then there’s not a chance you’d be able to do the job.

“The majority of people talking about you or writing about you don’t really know you. But once it’s down in print or being spoken about, people take it as fact. It is a sort of mind-set that you learn to ignore it.”

Heckingbottom has a chance to improve his predicament if he can defeat Celtic at Hampden and secure a place in the Betfred Cup final.

“We’ve got no-one to be scared of,” he said. “In the three games we’ve played against them we’ve drawn two and lost one, and in the one that we lost, a couple of moments of magic from their good players took the game away from us.

“We understand that they’ve got that in their locker, and that is what you have to guard against. We have to be at our best to try to limit their opportunities, and capitalise on the ones that we create. We know their turnover and income – they are on a different level to the rest of us. But it doesn’t mean that in any 90 minutes we can’t go and compete.”