Thursday, 7 November 2013
EL TEL THE MAN TO END HIBS’ HELL
BY ANDY RITCHIE
TERRY BUTCHER has been on missionary work in Inverness. Now it’s time for big Terry to mount a rescue mission at Hibs and restore under-fire chairman Rod Petrie’s credibility.
If Butcher is confirmed as successor to Pat Fenlon as manager the hacked-off Hibees fans will have cause to celebrate, for the former England captain is what’s needed to kick-start a revolution at Easter Road.
Let’s not pull any punches, Hibs have been in a mess for years and it’s high time the club achieved a level of stability so it can start moving forward for a change.
But Petrie must give Butcher a free hand similar to the one Kenny Cameron has allowed him at Inverness. Otherwise it won’t be long before there’s a clash of personalities.
I don’t agree that the Hibs job has become something of a poisoned challis because previous managers have had the board’s backing and enough time to make an impact.
However, the fact remains that Petrie’s track record when it comes to appointing managers doesn’t bear close scrutiny.
But he’s got it right his time. Butcher suffered a couple of bloody noses either side of his success at Motherwell but what a job he’s done for Inverness.
Everything was against him when he took over at Caledonian Stadium in January 2009 – Inverness’ geographical location and the fact that the club must have the smallest budget in the Premiership.
But after being relegated in his first season, Butcher turned the club round by taking everything back to basics.
He has built a squad on a shoe-string budget and moved players on at a profit. At the same time he has fashioned a team that plays an attractive style of football.
But he’s taken Inverness as far as he can. When I read the other week that Inverness’ League Cup quarter-final against Dundee United had attracted a crowd of only 2,600 – 750 of them visiting fans – I said to myself that it isn’t coaching work that’s needed up there, it’s missionary work!
So, in spite of the huge task he’ll face at Easter Road, it’s time for Butcher to move on when he’s at the peak of his achievements in the Highlands rather than hang off in case the Rangers job becomes available!
I imagine that Hibs have the second or third biggest budget in the Premiership so Butcher won’t have to go trawling the Conference and the lower leagues in England for players to the same extent, albeit that has worked very successfully for him at Inverness.
But it remains to be seen how long it will take him to sort out the mess he’ll inherit at Hibs.
On the plus side, Hibs have one of the best stadiums in the country and a state of the art training complex, second only to those of the Old Firm.
In fairness to Petrie, he has invested well on facilities and succeeded in keeping the club afloat while others are paddling against the tide.
The only black mark against him has been his choice of managers. He doesn’t seem very good at picking them although the law of average dictates that he’s bound to get it right eventually and Butcher fits the bill.
I don’t mind admitting that I’m a fan of the big man. He doesn’t complicate the game unnecessarily. He’s very good at what he does and he keeps it simple and gets people to play for him.
He doesn’t try to put square pegs in round holes and in Maurice Malpas he has a very astute assistant. The pair work well together and if the partnership remains intact, Hibs can look forward to more prosperous times.
Butcher’s coach Steve Marsella is also an important member of the team and by all accounts has earned himself quite a reputation as talent-spotter with an eye for a bargain, so I would imagine he’ll also be earmarked for a role at Easter Road.
I feel it’s also important for Butcher to get back to Scottish football’s heartland. I know he loves living in Inverness, but Glasgow and Edinburgh is the heart of the football community in Scotland.
He must also realise that he’s gone as far as he possibly can with Inverness, and if he can achieve success at Hibs it will mean much more.
It’s a tall order, but Petrie backed Fenlon when he reportedly sanctioned a fee of £200,000 for him to sign James Collins as a replacement for Leigh Griffiths and Butcher will know his budget before he starts.
There’s no doubting that a hell of a lot of hard work will need to be done to sort out the current squad before he can take the club forward to where Hibs and their fans would like to be.
I had a few run-ins with him in my role as an SPL delegate when he thought his team had suffered a refereeing injustice, but once he’s stopped raging he’s also capable of taking a balanced view of situations.
Butcher is a strong character with a big personality and he goes about management the right way - by keeping the game as simple as possible.