Pat Nevin recalls unusual meeting with Ron Gordon, disbelief at managerial decision and which Hibs star could leave this summer
For someone who refers to himself as the “accidental footballer” and is known for his musical interests almost as much as his playing career, it should perhaps come as no surprise that Pat Nevin’s first meeting with Hibs owner Ron Gordon centred around European film auteurs.
"I met Ron Gordon not long after he came into Hibs. We didn't know each other. He comes from across the water and then, two or three minutes into the conversation, we're talking about German film directors, Wim Winders and Werner Herzog, and it's not the way I expected the conversation to go. I was expecting overlapping full-backs or a new striker. In fact we never really got onto the football in depth,” the ex-Scottish international and Hibs supporter answered the Evening News through BoyleSports.
“Obviously, we had a little bit of a chat about it, I've been a chief exec at a club in the SPFL myself after all. I was interested to get his take on it but he was not giving much away.”
It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster for the American entrepreneur thus far as the custodian of Hibernian Football Club. There have been some moderate successes, like finishing third under Jack Ross and reaching both the Scottish Cup and League Cup finals. There’s also been a move to modernise the club with large screens installed at Easter Road and moves to add more entertainment to the matchday experience. On the other hand there was the shambles that was last season when Hibs went through two managers en route to an eighth-place finish, while off the park fans have become increasingly concerned with a perceived shift away from the club’s community values.
With Lee Johnson having been tasked with turning around fortunes of the football department, Nevin hopes the hierarchy have learned from their mistakes and will give the new manager time to get things right.
"Certainly, there's been ups and downs. Everyone was delighted at the first period when Ron Gordon came in, but people are starting to wonder if he's getting a bit trigger-happy with managers and that's a real concern. Lots of clubs are like that and it works for them. Real Madrid change their manager every two minutes, and Chelsea does the same, but they are minted. You need to have the money to do that,” said Nevin.
"Hibs can't afford to waste money, especially when they are up against the likes of Celtic and Rangers who they can't compete with financially, so I would hope Lee Johnson is the one that Ron sticks with, even if there's a short period where it's not working.
"He did well at Bristol City, the style was good and they were good to watch. I vaguely remember Pep Guardiola being impressed with his team and their style so you can't get much better than that. I also remember his Sunderland side that won the EFL Trophy at Wembley against Tranmere. I was at the game. It was a cracker of a match, even though it broke my heart to see Tranmere lose. But they were a good side, well structured and well organised.”
Nevin’s words feel particularly pertinent during the same week where former Hibs manager Jack Ross has been handed the top job at Dundee United and tasked with improving a side which already finished four places than the one which dispensed of his services last December.
“I'll just say it, I won't hide it, I said at the time – Jack Ross is a superb manager,” said Nevin. “He got Hibs in a short period of time to third in the league, that's as high as you can get. You can't beat Celtic and Rangers because of the advantages they have. And he got us to two cups finals at Hampden Park. Apart from not winning one of the finals, he nailed it. He got it as far as we could go. Then there was a period where a couple of players were injured, a couple were sold and you are gonna have a wobbly time at some point. And he was sacked, I was like 'seriously?' So I was really disappointed with that, it was a really poor decision.”
Seven players have already been recruited by Johnson so far with the possibility of ex-Celtic star Aiden McGeady also signing on in the coming days. But any good rebuild needs foundational pieces in place and there is a danger this summer Hibs could lose some valuable pieces with Chris Cadden and Ryan Porteous coming into the last year of their deals, while there’s ongoing speculation regarding another Easter Road mainstay.
"Josh Doig. He could be the real deal, there is speculation he might go to Italy, or maybe to replace Aaron Hickey who might go to a Premier League club and that wouldn't surprise me at all,” said Nevin. “I was at Hickey's first game, a cup final of Celtic against Hearts, he was only 16 but he was utterly brilliant. Doig's the same, young, pacey, powerful, leftie.
"If there are any scouts reading, can I change that too 'no he's no good, leave him at Hibs’? I am a Hibee after all! But that's the one I'm most concerned about, Hibs are a selling club, as all Scottish clubs are, you have to accept that. So when those players leave, you need to reinvest the money and that's the way it is, even for Celtic and Rangers. If he does go however, I wish him the best.”