The Tears of a Clown

Now if there's a smile upon my face…

Hibernian – The Broken Harp

IN THE OLD IRISH TRADITION of Hibernian, a wreath of flowers in the shape of a broken harp would be presented at a funeral as a mark of respect. Yesterday’s events when, to quote the old ironic phrase, Hibs, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, was not a funeral but was nevertheless a sad and emotional culmination of several years of struggle for the club.

It’s difficult to write these word without showing anger at the catastrophic mismanagement of the team and the clharpub as a whole but in the twilight of this ignominious period in Hibernian history that anger is reverting to the familiar frustration by myself and, dare I say, a majority of the support.

After angry scenes of protest outside Easter Road last evening we awoke to news that there are staff meetings scheduled at the training centre at East Mains today. Already the media informs us that no less than fourteen players are invited or ordered to end their association with Hibs. There are many fans that wished for this after one abject display after another over a series of months and who can blame them? For me though, the problem is that the man with a great shared responsibility for the club’s demise is the individual serving the ‘don’t come Monday’ messages in Manager, Terry Butcher. It’s an indication, however accurate or otherwise that he is being relied on to rebuild the Hibs – a gargantuan order that I don’t think he is fit be tasked with.

Since arriving at Easter Road I cannot think of one single positive that Butcher or his cohorts Malpas and Marsella have brought to the team. There is simply nothing. They have however brought disarray, discord, indecision and a brand of football that I can only describe as ‘prehistoric’. A (the) main tactic appears to be to dumping the ball into the opposite team’s corners in an attempt to create ‘pressure’. Former Hibs and Hearts midfielder, Mikey Stewart correctly identified this mediocre thinking on Sportscene last evening and added the sentiment that it’s the type of football that ‘deserves nothing’. I am much in agreement with Stewart.

The game itself against Hamilton featured a litany of managerial errors that cost Hibs dearly. cost the team it’s SPFL status in fact, and I remain amazed that this fact isn’t recognised by Rod Petrie and his fellow board members. Those questionable decisions included not selecting the old head and steady experience of Kevin Thomson for such a fraught affair – a man who might well have brought the ball down a little and protected his teammates. Butcher also mystifyingly returned Danny Haynes to the team from nowhere to replace out of confidence youngster, Alex Harris – a strange move indeed and surely either Cairney, who can play a similar position or the aforementioned Thomson would have been superior choices. Within minutes Haynes was being helped from the pitch injured so what did Butcher do? Yes, pitch Harris back into a white-hot relegation battle. For a man who proposes to understand a little psychology and use it with his players I found this, again, mystifying. Embarrassingly, he had to substitute his substitute later in the game. One hopes that Alex hasn’t been set back too far by his treatment by Butcher in general this season. How to ruin a young player’s development.

In the first leg, another youngster, Jason Cummings, happily broke his duck for the first team with a fine brace of goals. What did Butcher then do for this game? Play him further back in front of his own left-back in order that he could keep his treasured 5-4-1 formation, therefore rendering the keen young forward impotent as an offensive threat. Later in the game with Hibs having formerly clearly played for a draw and now desperately playing for a 0-1 defeat, the manager pulled the experienced and intelligent play of Heffernan from the action to be replaced by his favoured defensive midfielder Tudur Jones, leaving Hibs vulnerable with little goal threat should extra time have been necessary, which it proved to be.

Full marks should be given to Hamilton who played good, attractive, neat football at all times and passed it around and through their Hibs counterparts. It looked a sophisticated style when compared to Hibs’ leaden lumping of the ball forward, rendering possession to the opposition time after time.

After an excruciating two periods of extra time we finally came down to the almost inevitable penalty shoot-out and here again, Butcher showed his incredible lack of know-how for a man of his experience in the game. The club’s regular and arguably best penalty taker, Craig was not chosen to take the first penalty with Thomson gamely stepping up to take responsibility for getting the team on its way. The inevitable happened, with Thomson not being a regular penalty taker. Sadly, it came down to young Cummings again to take the do or die fifth spot kick and I felt this was a huge strain on an 18-year-old youngster – unforgivable really. He missed his kick, hid his face in floods of tears and Hibs were relegated. What a way to hang the young man out to dry.

So, the future and who knows, this piece may be out of date very quickly but it appears that at the time of writing the Butcher-Petrie axis remains with us. I have the strong feeling that the former Rangers man employs a somewhat ‘bullying’ style of management and this concerns me if so. There will always be players that can cope with that but others that cannot. That’s the way it is. I recall dear old Brian Clough at Forest terrifying some of his players at times – even to the point of the like of England international, Viv Anderson hiding under a desk when he heard Clough approaching but the big difference was that those same players had respect for their manager. I don’t think that exists with Butcher and the Hibs players. They appear to hate him and he them. The same feelings appear to surround coach, Malpas who has specialised in having run-ins with fans in the seats around the dug-out. Classy indeed.

I’ve said enough regarding this sad and disturbing part of Hibs history but of course there is one man culpable more than any other who I’ve barely mentioned – Rod Petrie. I have plenty to say about him for another time as it seems we are stuck with him still – even though he has brought in the interesting character of Leeann Dempster in order to deflect flak from himself. From the club’s owner, to him and his board, the management staff and the players, all have critically underperformed. In fact the only people who haven’t are the fans. I salute them – especially the ones who can find it in themselves to continue supporting this club after one abject humiliation heaped upon another.

God bless the Hibs.

May 26, 2014 - Posted by | Hibernian FC, Sporting Tales | , , ,

10 Comments »

  1. Agree with you Stu, the sooner Butcher , Malpas and Petrie are out the door , the better. What a sad time it is to be a hibee. Regards. Martin.

    Comment by Norwayhibs | May 26, 2014

  2. Hi Martin. yes, sad times indeed. I don’t think we’ve known any worse. Let’s hope for change and happier times.

    Stu

    Comment by Stuart | May 26, 2014

  3. I’d exempt Farmer, as he always said that he wasn’t going to put money in willy-nilly but wouldn’t see the club go under. I saw a suggestion elsewhere of going grovelling to John Collins; what would Hibs supporters think of that?

    Comment by Derek | May 26, 2014

  4. Cheers for the comments, Derek. At one time of day I’d agreed with you about Farmer perhaps but I’ve succumbed to the view that he ‘saved’ Hibs but is now damaging the club.

    I personally like John Collins a lot and saw him as the way forward when he was at Easter Road. For the reasons he left and the presence of his former taskmaster still in position I’d have thought it a non-starter.

    Comment by Stuart | May 26, 2014

  5. Good article I agree with it all. An owner and a chairman who don’t understand football. In fact not interested in football.

    Comment by Gerry | May 26, 2014

  6. Thanks Gerry. Yes, that appears to about sum it up. I don’t think it can go on any longer, I hope not.

    Cheers, Stu

    Comment by Stuart | May 26, 2014

  7. It has been horrendous for far too long but I find it hard to believe that this is the way Butcher was sending the team out to play. This style doesn’t work whatever the team and I don’t ever mind seeing ICT play this way.

    We need a manager with experience and a cool head, Butcher has won the first division before at the first attempt. I’m expecting, I’m hoping, I’m desperate to see us turn it around. If it had of been Fenlon that took us down we’d have been creaming ourselves if we could get Butcher. I think he has it in him to bring us back up, but he’s going to have to show this bloody quickly.

    I really don’t see how he can do it by playing McGivern & Nelson.

    Comment by Chris | May 27, 2014

  8. It’s a fair point, Chris. I think his decision making is really poor but time will tell. Thanks for your comments.

    Stu

    Comment by Stuart | May 27, 2014

  9. Interesting analysis Stu. The overall responsibility for Hibs’ decline over a number of years (since Collins really) lies with Petrie (and Farmer for not recognising that the asset he saved ‘for the community’ was in danger of serious depreciation). But Butcher has been a terrible disappointment. I thought that his personality and leadership style were actually what Hibs needed but he has failed dismally.

    I am now pinning those hopes on Dempster whom I think is nobody’s puppet. I wrote on the Yahoo Hibs list that if she were to start her new job by taking Terry and Maurice for a long drive in the country and dumping their bodies in a disused quarry it would be no bad thing, sparing the club from a pay-off and simultaneously stamping her authority on the club. Win-win.

    As to John Collins, firstly I doubt he would cross the threshold of Easter Road while Petrie is still there, and secondly I think he is a shit manager. He is an idealist rather than a pragmatist – to be a good manager you need to be a bit of both, but he is all the former and to re-quote myself from the Hibs list once again, I suggested that right now Hibs need JC like a homeless jakey needs a set of napkin rings.

    Comment by Fraser | May 27, 2014

  10. Hi Fraser, can’t disagree with your opinion on Petrie and Farmer there. Farmer, apart from anything is in danger of really tarnishing his name with the Hibs community although there’s clearly a split on that. I have to say that without being excited about the Butcher appointment I felt he might be a ‘safe pair of hands’. He’s obviously proven to be anything but and has brought nothing positive to Easter Road. It’s difficult to think of a manager who has done a worse job.

    We’ll see about Dempster. Tend to agree but Rod is a pretty shrewd operator. I like your ‘assignment’ for her!

    The days of Collins are long gone and for good. Never going to happen. It was of it’s time and if his thinking was going to succeed it would have been more of the same seven years ago. I remain a fan of many of his ideas on football.

    Comment by Stuart | May 27, 2014


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