Liverpool’s greatest ever manager Bill Shankly once said:
At a football club, there’s a holy trinity: the players, the manager and the supporters. Directors don’t come into it. They are only there to sign the cheques.
I would soon come to feel the same disdain for these directors as many of the pioneers of the management game in Scotland, as I took the reins at Hibernian Football Club for the 2016-17 season.
My sole task was to get this squad – fresh off of a Scottish Cup triumph – back into the Premiership at the third time of asking. It will be difficult. Dundee United are looking to knock my Cabbage and Ribs out of their way and confine this Edinburgh outfit to another end of season playoff.
Welcome to the club
In my opening meeting with the chairman, Rod Petrie, we butt heads because of his refusal to search for a senior affiliate to bring extra income into the club. After a back and forth, he relented, as I won the first pissing contest of many I would have with the mustached one. Yet – in what I can only assume was his spite – he did not find any one club suitable to set up a partnership with, which was of great annoyance. If a deal could have been struck with say Southampton, it would have been more than ideal for my team needs. And speaking of the Saints, my first move was an attempt to bring in Josh Sims on loan from the south coasters. The left winger would have filled a problem area in the squad, as no player had the requisite skill to play the position. Considering there was no cost involved in loaning him, it was a no-brainer. Yet, the England youth internationalist was less than keen to make the move to the Scottish capital. Although, Kyle Walker-Pieters of Tottenham Hotspur was willing to move north of the border until the end of the season. He will be the ideal man to step in for David Gray when he is spending more time on the treatment table rather than the pitch.
Hamilton Academical and St Mirren came in with derisory bids for Marvin Bartley, which were rejected straight away with both clubs knowing that they cannot Dick Turpin my fringe players away from Easter Road.
Scott Martin was another being undervalued by the Accies, and as a slap in the face, they insisted the club still pay part of his wages. Eventually, I sold Martin to Dundee for an initial fee of £10k that may rise to £28k with many incentive laden clauses. The most important part of the deal is that 40% of the profit from the next sale goes into the transfer budget. Partly though, I was glad because I know how raging Martin Canning will be that I have sold him to a Premiership rival. Maybe, he will think twice about taking the piss with a transfer offer.
Another player shown the door was Liam Fontaine. St Johnstone tabled a reasonable bid of £39k with the potential to rise up to £50k with league appearances and monthly installments.
Alex Harris stubbornly would not seek a transfer even though I reiterate to him that he has no future at the club. He can rot in the U20s for all I care.
Meeting the squad
My opening meeting with the players went well as they are receptive to what I say about the need to go up as champions. As a manager, this will be the only time that I have the whole squad on side. There will be ones bound to hold a grudge as I try to jettison them from the club on the basis they are not good enough for my lofty expectations; top six of the Premiership within two seasons.
Fraser Fyvie was making noise about wanting to join Preston, but thankful I asked Gray to intervene. As a result, he wanted to stay at the club. He later signed a new deal which kept him at the club until the end of next season. Secretly, at home though I have a dart board with his face pinned on it. Not even good enough for my starting 11, and he and his agent believe he should be paid like a key player. Any acceptable offer for him and his arse is out the door quicker than Usain Bolt can run the 100m.
Chris Humphrey signed a new deal which kept him at the club until June 2018 as did Darren McGregor and David Gray. All whom I am dependent on to win the title.
Lead up to the managerial debut
As a result of taking over from Alan Stubbs – who won the Scottish Cup with the Easter Road outfit – the Hibees drew Slavia Prague in the Europa League second qualifying round.
On the eve of the tie against Červenobílí, disaster strikes as Andrew Shinnie, Darren McGregor, James Keatings and Jason Cummings are ruled out of the first leg. I am left with a selection dilemma in the first meaningful match as manager of the club.
Fuming, I pour myself a large drink as I contemplate how best to navigate Czech Republic’s fifth placed side…
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