Hibs need to come up with some answers on and off the field as Leeann Dempster departs and results turn
The focus has been on signing targets and how to arrest the dip in the most recent on-field performances, but those are not the only issues facing Hibs at the moment.
As of today, the Easter Road club no longer have Leeann Dempster steering the ship. Having handed in her notice in November, she officially ended her term as chief executive on Tuesday – with no replacement lined up.
The process is under way but no appointment is imminent, with club insiders saying they would rather make the right decision than a fast one.
Getting it right is obviously important, but fans would rather see a little more urgency.
At a time of great uncertainty, around the world and in football, when new lockdown measures are adding to the sense of wariness and weariness, and the return of fans seems further away than ever, there is a perception that Hibs are – on the field and off it – simply floating on the tide.
And, whether justified or not, those perceptions are generating disquiet and threatening to take the shine off what has been a largely positive negotiation of the initial Covid difficulties and of the first half of the season.
Eamonn Brophy and shrewd stance
The recent defeats by Ross County and Livingston were sore ones to take, especially when considering how flat and meek the performances were. But while those showings have called into question the quality of the players, it seems the size of the squad, with enough reliable and fit options to cope with such a demanding fixture schedule, has been the bigger contributor.
And to suggest that the club is simply bobbing about due to the ongoing search for a chief executive, and on the back of three successive losses, with signing targets being picked off by rivals such as St Mirren, who pipped them to Eamonn Brophy, is too simplistic a view.
It shows a maturity and an adherence to the budget, refusing to panic when the Paisley side proved willing to part with more than Hibs felt the player was worth to them.
This early in the transfer window – with other targets to aim for – that stance should be considered shrewd.
This is, undoubtedly, one of this season’s most testing spells, as the stability offered by Dempster and the team’s metronomic delivery of points has wavered. However, until further evidence materialises of any long-term impact, panicking does the club a disservice, and undermines the ability and forward-planning – as clear as it can be in current circumstances – of those put in place by Dempster as she restructured and rebuilt the club throughout her time in charge, having arrived when they had just been relegated and now leaving them in a position where European qualification and domestic silverware remains within their grasp.
There is also the new-look board, with four new non-executive faces set to join this month’s meeting. So, just as a swan bobs on the surface, belying the frantic paddling below the surface that propels it forward, the work is continuing away from the public eye.
Concern can be forgiven
But the supporters, who have had to place so much faith in people this year, can be forgiven their impatience.
Simply being told to place their faith in others has become increasingly difficult in a year when time has moved more slowly and even the best-laid plans can hit a bump.
The one thing Dempster offered was equilibrium and consistency. She also valued as much transparency as possible, working hard to close the void between the club and the fans who sustain it. She may not always have given fans the answers they wanted, but she did try to offer them some.
She was comfortable with the club, the machinations of the Scottish game and the demands made by football supporters, who will never settle for bobbing along, regardless of finances, circumstance or global pandemics. As a people person and man manager, she was at ease and efficient in her dealings with players, managers and agents.
That is why those looking in, do so with bated breath. Because this month is massive for Hibs.
The big challenges
The Easter Road fans know as well as anyone the difference the right chief executive can make, and, having watched their team falter during this section of the season in the past, they also know the value in making the right signings in January. That will ensure that they can kick on quickly from the recent mini-lull, and, almost as importantly, not be suckered into panic buying duds who will do little to improve the squad and simply help drain the bank account.
There is a keenly-felt desire for the lift a couple of astute signings would offer as the team head into the second half of the league season and end this month hoping to book a Betfred Cup final spot and make a bright start to their Scottish Cup campaign.
If things go right in the transfer market and on the pitch, few other than owner Ron Gordon will give too much thought over to the ongoing search for Dempster’s replacement.
Likewise, the swift arrival of a quality chief executive would bring with hope that improvement will not be allowed to stall this season and that silverware and European football could be a regular, realistic target going forward.
The problem for Hibs, though, is that right now – at a time when uncertainty is something everyone has had their fill of – there is a little too much of it swirling around the club.
It won’t take much to dispel that, but there are many within the support who would prefer them to do that sooner rather than later.
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