Leeann Dempster on why Hibs have hit the jackpot with new Head Coach

Jack Ross praised

Jack Ross has had a positive impact since taking over from Paul Heckingbottom three months ago
Jack Ross has had a positive impact since taking over from Paul Heckingbottom three months ago

Leeann Dempster declared that Hibs are “very lucky” to have Jack Ross in charge as she reflected on a fruitful start to the manager’s reign.

The 43-year-old has elevated the Easter Road side from the relegation zone into contention for a European place after overseeing seven wins and three draws in his first 15 league matches at the helm. Hibs have become the third-highest scorers in the Scottish Premiership under Ross who has also guided them safely into the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup.

Dempster isn’t surprised to see Ross and his assistant John Potter making a positive early impact and believes the progress the team has made over the past three months justifies the club’s decision to appoint them following the sacking of Paul Heckingbottom in early November.

“We absolutely knew the qualities of Jack and John when we asked them to join the club,” said the chief executive. “We weren’t in a dreadful position when they came in but, let’s be honest, we could have been in a better position. We’ve had a really positive period under Jack. We had a strong end to 2019. Jack was very honest in his assessment of the team and where he felt we could make some improvements and what we could do in the January transfer window to help him. I feel like we’ve more or less managed to do that.

“I feel very positive about how Jack and John have started, I think they’re enjoying life at the club and I think we suit each other well. The games have been hard and fast since they came in so we’re probably still settling into a way of working together. The transfer window came upon everyone pretty quickly and now we’re focused on hopefully having a good end to the season.”

What would constitute “a good end to the season” for a team currently in sixth place and five points beneath Aberdeen and Motherwell, the two teams currently in third and fourth place?

“People are talking about Europe, but our first priority has to be to make sure we’re in the top six because that’s important for us,” said Dempster. “If we achieve that, then we look up the way for the remainder of the season and it’s also a major plus to still be in the Scottish Cup at this point in the year because it’s a tournament everybody enjoys.

“We’re getting into a groove now. It’s been really good since Jack came in. He certainly looks like he’s enjoying it.

“We obviously knew a lot about him before he came in because of what he’d done at Alloa and St Mirren before he went down south. He was a very promising manager in Scotland for a long time. How he turned that St Mirren squad round was tremendous. I think going to Sunderland, he probably learned a lot about stepping up to a bigger club and brought some of those qualities with him to Hibs. I think we’re lucky to have him.”

Dempster believes the Hibs squad is in good shape at present following a squad-enhancing transfer window in which Greg Docherty, Paul McGinn, Marc McNulty and Stephane Omeonga were added to the mix. She detects a positive vibe from the dressing-room. “I think we had a good window,” Dempster said. “For most clubs, January is usually a month for making some emergency improvements if you can because it’s a hard window to work in. But I think the improvements we made to the squad were really good. What I think you’re seeing as well is that other players in the squad who were already here have probably settled into their positions in a more comfortable way since the new additions. I try not to get into talking about the technical side of it but it feels like the balance in the squad is slightly better.

“The camaraderie in the group has always been good here but when you bring Marc back, for example, it brings a different energy, and then you have Martin Boyle back from injury – he just brings energy! It’s just nice down there (at East Mains) at the minute.”

“We’re already thinking about the summer, when you’ll hopefully see some more positive changes within the squad, so we’re in the groove,” said Dempster. “It’s all bubbling along nicely.”

Hibs, meanwhile, have thrown their support behind action to combat climate change with the Easter Road considered the “greenest club in Scotland” and in the top three most environmentally-friendly in the UK along with Forest Green Rovers and Manchester United.

The club has vowed to promote greater environmental responsibility, reduce the overall climate impact from sports, educate and advocate for climate action and promote sustainable and responsible consumption. The club will replace its transport fleet with electric vehicles, and is targeting a reduction in the 48 per cent of supporters who travel to matches by car by linking up with travel partners.