Living in dark places, coping with pressure, and building things: Why Brian McDermott feels he's a good fit for Hibs

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“We wanted to make sure that we had the right steps in place and a thorough process, to make sure we got the right person in the door,” Hibs chief executive Ben Kensell said as he welcomed Brian McDermott to the club.

The 62-year-old, who has had spells managing Leeds United and Reading as well as extensive scouting experience with the Royals, Arsenal, and Celtic, was appointed on Thursday as the club’s director of football, bringing to an end a four-month search for the new role, identified as key to taking the Easter Road side forward while working in tandem with manager Lee Johnson and Kensell himself.

Speaking during his unveiling at the Hibernian Training Centre on Thursday, McDermott admitted an eagerness to get going, and warned that he would be blending into the background rather than remaining front and centre.

‘Everyone wants this club to do really well’

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Brian McDermott pictured at the Hibernian Training CentreBrian McDermott pictured at the Hibernian Training Centre
Brian McDermott pictured at the Hibernian Training Centre

“For me the most important thing is Hibs,” he said. “I’m just excited to be here, I’m ready to go now. You won’t hear from me too much, I’d rather be in the background, doing my work. Your manager, your director of football and your chief executive have to all be aligned. I have no problem with that. Everyone wants this football club to do really well, that’s it, nothing else matters. And it’s very, very simple.”

He also talked at length about his psychological demons including wrestling with a lack of self-esteem and self-belief, as well as his battle with alcohol. The message is one of hope despite the bleak subject matter – and he has vowed to help anyone who needs it at Hibs, be they player or staff member.

“This is really important to me, as far as people opening up – staff, players, whoever. It’s so important, if I can help somebody. Because I’ve been in a dark place, and I know what it looks like. I’ve lived in a place that was quite dark, and I don’t live in that place any more, a day at a time,” McDermott added.

“I feel very, very grateful. I’ve got an amazing family at home, who support me, even to the fact my wife sent me on my way to Edinburgh. I’ve got a beautiful granddaughter and that’s one of the reasons I said to Lee Johnson, ‘if you’re not sure, don’t bring me to this football club’. But they were, and I’ve come. I’ve got a lot of stuff six hours away, but there’s the pull of this club, and being here and trying to create something.”

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‘You want to make sure they know they’ve got somewhere to come’

As director of football McDermott will have his hands full with transfer activity, the academy, sports science, analysis and so much more. But as he says, ‘unless you’ve stood on the line as a manager for one game you will never know the pressure’. Having served his time as a player, head coach, scout, and youth coach he is well placed to empathise with anyone from a footballing walk of life.

“As far as the mental health side of it goes, we’ve all got mental health, we’ve all got issues at certain times. For me, I never really opened up and talked about them, until 2015 and then I mentioned it in public a year ago, so I’ve been doing lots of talks on it,” he explained.

“It’s my journey, and it’s only my journey, but for me if I did struggle on a daily basis, and I don’t, then I’d open up and talk about it. You want to be there for a football player, a member of staff, to make sure they know they’ve got somewhere to come.

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“I’m not a psychiatrist, I’m not a psychologist, I just lived a certain way and I’ve gone through certain things. I can signpost people for help if they need it. It’s just about being there, and sometimes it’s just listening. One of the big things about that sort of thing is to listen and to make sure you hear what people are saying.

“I remember back in the old days, you never spoke. As a player, you didn’t talk or open up or speak, because it was always, ‘you’ve got to man up’. Life’s moved on a little bit since those days, we’d like to think. But it needs to be better.”

‘It’s about trying to create something – that’s what I really believe in’

On a related note he feels there is too much pressure in football. We have seen how many managers in the Scottish Premiership have lost their jobs this season alone, and McDermott brands the revolving-door nature of the position ‘ridiculous’.

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“There’s too much pressure, definitely. We all want to work hard but you want to enjoy what you’re doing and creating something and making something happen. For me the most important thing is the collective of the group. A bunch of people working really hard for one common cause.

“The pressure is ridiculous. The amount of managers leaving football clubs is ridiculous. It doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s a moving on culture, nobody is building anything.

“It’s about building. Mikel Arteta a couple of years ago lost a few games and people were talking about him going, but now look what he’s building at Arsenal. It’s incredible. It’s about trying to create something and that’s what I really believe in. We’re trying to build here – there are five games left then we have the summer.

"The processes are in place and I know how good the processes here are. With good processes you will have good outcomes as long as you keep believing in what you’re trying to do. Then in the summer you’re going to go and try again. It’s about trying to create something special. It’s not easy, but it’s doable.”

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