Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Hibs: Calderwood Goes But Questions Remain

It took 68 words for Hibs to dispatch of Colin Calderwood.

Even that seemed needlessly verbose, the gist was simple:

"Thanks. Goodbye. We live to find another boss."

A taciturn end to a joyless reign. Consider the contrast to July when Rod Petrie - hardly a prolific wordsmith - devoted 434 words and the logic of a one-eyed statistician to a celebratory love letter in support of the manager.

What changed?

Could it have been just five words? The chants of "Petrie, Petrie get tae fuck" that mingled with - in my experience - unprecedented boos at the final whistle on Saturday.

Perhaps it was.

Perhaps not. Clearly a storm had been brewing.

Calderwood was unloved and struggling. A board that stakes its authority on good housekeeping had posted a loss of £900,000.

The completed stadium was consistently less than half full. The quality of the training centre was translating into incompetence on the pitch.

On Saturday Hibs lost a goal inside three minutes against Dunfermline. They spent the remainder of the 90 minutes looking beaten.

Football allows you to shelter from your own failings in the shortcomings of others. When you start losing to the teams below you the game is pretty much up.

12 wins from 49 games. One home win since February. An abject performance on Saturday.

If he's honest with himself - and I suspect that it is one of his qualities - Calderwood will not be shocked at his dismissal.

But questions remain.

Hibs proclaim their financial stability. Yet they get through managers at an unseemly rate.

Mistakes. They've made a few.

Calderwood was the wrong man for the job. He was backed - within Hibs' budgetary constraints - in two transfer windows. He was lauded by the chairman in a public show of support that has never looked anything but misguided.

And that show of support was costly. There was a chance in the summer to cash in, accept compensation from Nottingham Forest or Birmingham for Calderwood and start over.

Hibs stubbornly held on to their man. Hindsight shows that as foolhardiness.

The board are guilty in this saga. And, as guilty men, they will be under fierce scrutiny at tonight's AGM. Passions will run high inside the meeting.

A rumoured protest against Petrie and his well salaried acolytes will be held outside the Famous Five stand at the same time.

Cutting Calderwood loose hasn't been met with elation. The troubled waters are not becalmed.

Instead there's a simmering resentment that it has come to this.

That resentment is manifested in a loss of faith. There's little conviction that the people with power at Easter Road now have the ability to make the changes, and the appointment, that the club needs to come even close to meeting the expectations of fans.

Blaming Calderwood. Blaming John Hughes. Blaming the players. Blaming the fans for not standing up and being counted.

That won't work tonight. Similar ploys have been used too many times.

A mea culpa. A detailed statement of of the club's footballing ambition. A transparent guarantee that Petrie's role and influence has been reduced.

All that would begin the rebuilding process. But the breakdown in trust is huge.

The fans showed on Saturday that they can only take so much.

Mired in a malaise of their own making the board need to hold their hands up this evening and beg for mercy.

Then they need to find the right manager and work tirelessly to get things right on the pitch.

Months of misery have culminated in a crisis. They can only redeem themselves with progress on the pitch.

There are lingering doubts that they can meet those challenges. They need to prove that they can. And they need to do it quickly.

> Four steps in the right direction:

1. Rod Petrie steps back. As the only board member with a stake in the company he is guaranteed a role. But a chairman can be hands off. He can busy himself with his SFA duties. If he trusts his fellow directors enough to pay them handsome salaries he has to show a willingness to trust them to run the club without their puppet-master.

2. Scott Lindsay leaves East Mains. The Executive Director is in charge of the football side of the club. He's an accountant. He doesn't need an office at the training centre. If the board want representation that close to the action they should appoint a Director of Football with a footballing background.

3. Get the next appointment right. Easier said than done for any club. But Hibs have a lot of mistakes to learn from. A manager shouldn't just impress because he understands the club's balance sheet. He also needs to understand and connect with the fans. That doesn't mean the new man should have a history with the club. We're told the directors live and breathe Hibs. That should give them an insight into the sort of manager who can provide inspiration and stability, an eye for a bargain and an ear for the support.

4. Get the fans on board. Literally. The supporter-shareholders wield no power. But representation in the boardroom would be a clear indication that the failed autocracy of recent seasons has been consigned to history in favour of a fresh start for the whole "Hibernian family."

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