Colin Calderwood was not an appointment that Hibs fans expected or necessarily wanted. Steve Clarke was heavily touted as John Hughes replacement, and the thought of Jose Mourinho’s old assistant from Chelsea coming to the club with that kind of experience, not to mention a Premier League phone book, truly had Hibs fans excited. However, the deal fell through (rumoured to be due to wage demands) and Calderwood, who had been interviewed for the job before and been deemed less suitable than Yogi, was given the job.

Calderwood’s tenure was largely unremarkably and towards the end the football bordered on abysmal. It speaks volumes when you can replace a manager doing quite as poorly as John Hughes was and still not make any impact. For season 2010/11, Hibernian finished in tenth position, much to the consternation of the Hibs support.

Now, in most jobs when an employee is not performing well and another company makes an approach, the manager of that company accepts this, seeing it as a chance to offload an incompetent employee without the burden of a severance payment or maybe even making the company some money. This was not the approach taken by chairman Rod Petrie when Birmingham and Nottingham Forest came calling in the summer. The supremo decided to issue a nonsensical statement in which he focused on a run of 10 games from February to April where Hibs didn’t play too badly. When Petrie himself acknowledged in the statement that he was selectively quoting Calderwood’s statistics, questions had to be asked about the upper management of Hibernian FC.

Calderwood’s signings were generally mixed. Garry O’Connor is the stand-out but one suspects that Hibs had O’Connor’s personal problems rather than the manager’s vision for the club to thank for his acquisition. Leigh Griffiths, Victor Palsson and Iasiah Osborne could be good signings but the dross on the pitch has prevented the opportunity for reasonable judgement of their abilities. Junior Agogo, Sean O’Hanlon Akpo Sodje were signings from England as are undoubtedly costing the club a sizeable chunk of the wage budget despite none of them being genuinely good enough to play for the club. So with the club hovering around the relegation zone and no evidence of improvement, Colin Calderwood had to go and decisive action was taken. Nobody complained.

The failure of the previous four managers (a run stretching right back to the departure of Tony Mowbray) meant that there was immense pressure on the Hibs board to make the correct appointment this time. In light of much criticism from the Hibs support concerning his record of managerial appointments, Rod Petrie purportedly stepped back from the recruitment process and let Chief Executive Scott Lindsay and the bizarrely named Managing Director Fife Hyland take charge. They were left in a strange position. Their excellent work over the past decade in stabilising the club financing and building a self-owned infrastructure had actually served to increase the pressure on the board from the fans. Only at a club like Hibernian would the supporters look at the situation and think ‘well, they’ve built us the biggest and best stadium in the country outside of Glasgow and financed a state of the art training facility and taken transfer fee spending to a record high over consecutive seasons… let’s try and force them out!’ In the view of the disgruntled fans, there were no longer any excuses as to why Hibs should be performing so poorly on the pitch. The infrastructure was complete so all revenues could now be spent on the team. A nice theory indeed, but the more rational fan asked one key question: what revenues? The famous conveyor belt of talent has slowed considerably meaning that the club can no longer rely on the millions of pounds it received in transfer fees over a number of seasons. Because this conveyer belt has slowed, Hibs have less good players and subsequently worse performances that resulted in lower gates and less revenue. Therefore, in my view it was imperative that the board appointed a man with the ability to bring through young players in the same way that Mowbray did while maintaining an eye for a bargain and generally improving the quality of football.

Taking anecdotal evidence from supporters’ websites, the fans favoured two men in the hunt for the new manager. Shamrock Rovers manager Michael O’Neill was a popular Hibs player in the nineties and was unmistakeably successful in the League of Ireland, guiding Shamrock to the league title and into the Europa League group stages. Greater achievements than Hibs with an inferior team and infrastructure, it was easy to see why he would have been a popular choice. Alas, he was unsuccessful in his application with unsubstantiated rumours about his drinking habits suggested to have influenced the Lindsay and Hyland.

The other man with a great deal of support from the fans would have been an appointment from a different angle. An experienced ‘big-name’ manager was what some fans thought was necessary to get supporters to return to Easter Road. Who better than Muirhouse’s own boyhood Hibee – Gordon Strachan. Whether he was ever a realistic appointment or not (the Daily Record reported that an approach was made for him to take on a Director of Football role), it would have been a statement of intent from the Hibs board to appoint such a well known manager although one more to appease the fans than an appointment made based on managerial ability, given his uninspiring record at all clubs bar Celtic.

However, a late candidate emerged who ultimately proved to be successful. Pat Fenlon, a former Dundee United target, took the reins. His credentials are hard to argue with on paper. Five League of Ireland titles with Shelbourne and Bohemians is an impressive total and by all means he seems to be a very good manager. If you were to listen to Sportsound on BBC Radio Scotland you would think that the Hibs fans were up in arms and marching on Easter Road in protest at this appointment, but in reality most supporters can see that he has the credentials and are willing to give him a chance.

It would have been nice to be able to review his first game in charge but unfortunately Motherwell managed to successfully sabotage the match by starting a fire at half time, when down 1-0, and having the game called off. One thing is for sure though, Fenlon’s job is unenviable. With problems in every area of the Hibernian playing staff ranging from poor attitude through to plain lack of quality, ‘Nutsy’ will have his work cut out to turn the team round into the consistent European qualifiers that the fans crave.

By Calvin McDonald, you can follow him on twitter at @CalvinMcD

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