Rae signs up for Petrie push

The Herald - Herald Sport - - FOOTBALL -

LEEANN DEMP­STER, the new Hiber­nian CEO, has prob­a­bly ex­pe­ri­enced the worst cir­cum­stances any foot­ball chief ex­ec­u­tive could imagine go­ing into a new job. How­ever, last night the 43-year-old made the sort of noises that might have warmed even the most ab­ject, stony-hearted Hibby of these days.

Demp­ster spoke to Hiber­nian TV and oth­ers and laid a num­ber of is­sues on the line. Terry Butcher’s fu­ture, she said, was too soon to call – she will be meet­ing him next week. As for Rod Petrie, the em­bat­tled Hibs chair­man, Demp­ster ro­bustly claimed that he would have no in­ter­fer­ence in the decisions and changes she in­tends to start mak­ing around the club.

Hibs are in the grip of a fans re­volt. A mass protest is planned today at Easter Road and there have been in­ces­sant de­mands for Petrie to go, with some also want­ing Butcher evicted. The re­cent rel­e­ga­tion from the SPFL Pre­mier­ship has plunged Demp­ster and Hibs into a mi­nor night­mare.

“It has not been the best in­tro­duc­tion for me, to be hon­est,” said Demp­ster. “It has been very dif­fi­cult. You can tell from the noises com­ing from the broad sup­port­er­base that we are not in a great place. I need to deal with that and re­solve it as best as pos­si­ble.

“But I feel con­fi­dent, I’m op­ti­mistic. I un­der­stand foot­ball and have a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence. I’m not com­ing in to this cold. I’ve got great con­tacts, great con­nec­tions. I think I’ve got qual­i­ties that are needed at this club right now.”

As Hibs sup­port­ers hear more from Demp­ster, the truth is, they might be slightly star­tled. Petrie has ruled the club from a kind of icy dis­tance, al­most with a North Korean de­tach­ment: a mys­te­ri­ous leader whom few got to know. Yet here is Demp­ster, open and will­ing with the me­dia and any­one else, de­spite all the pres­sures around her.

Demp­ster knows that two key el­e­ments await her judg­ment. Firstly, does Butcher stay or leave? Se­condly, can she dis­tance her­self suf­fi­ciently from Petrie, the man who ap­pointed her, in or­der to as­sert her own au­thor­ity on the club.

In re­gard to Butcher, Demp­ster sounded strong, but also cau­tious. It sounded like his fu­ture is not yet se­cured.

“I’ll meet the man­ager next week, where we will dis­cuss the di­rec­tion we are go­ing to take,” she said. “I met Terry for the first time in his ca­pac­ity as Hibs man­ager last week and emo­tions were very high. Rel­e­ga­tion had just hap­pened. So I have plans to meet Terry again and, once we’ve had that con­ver­sa­tion, we will know more about the di­rec­tion of the club. I can’t say more at the mo­ment, it’s too early.”

As for her re­la­tion­ship with Petrie, who will stay on at Hibs de­spite sup­port­ers’ crav­ings to the con­trary, Demp­ster could not have been clearer. “One of my con­cerns in com­ing here was, ‘am I go­ing to have the au­ton­omy to go and do the job that is re­quired?’ Hibs have not had the best on-field re­sults in the last


I’ve got the ball now. The re­spon­si­bil­ity is on me. The decisions that I make are the ones that are go­ing to be judged

cou­ple of years. The club hasn’t per­formed in the way it needs to.

“I wasn’t go­ing to walk away from a job [at Mother­well] where I had com­plete au­ton­omy, and the ab­so­lute sup­port of the chair­man to go and do the job, only to walk into an­other post where my hands were go­ing to be tied.

“So I’ve got the ball now. The re­spon­si­bil­ity is on me. The decisions that I make are the ones that are go­ing to be judged.

“We have a tre­men­dous in­fra­struc­ture at Hibs but that is a bone of con­tention with sup­port­ers. We haven’t had the team on the pitch. So it’s my role to bring about a change in di­rec­tion.”

At Mother­well, var­i­ous peo­ple speak ex­tremely highly of Demp­ster’s ca­pa­bil­ity as a foot­ball ex­ec­u­tive. She is also said to be hands-on and likes to im­merse her­self in foot­ball is­sues, traits which might not al­ways be to the lik­ing of Butcher or any other man­ager, to judge by her com­ments yes­ter­day.

“I’ve fol­lowed foot­ball for many years,” said Demp­ster. “Here at Hibs we will take decisions col­lec­tively. Do I de­cide if cer­tain play­ers are signed or not, if a man­ager comes and makes a strong rec­om­men­da­tion? Well, that is their judg­ment call. I need to make a de­ci­sion on whether they are backed.

“In my pre­vi­ous post I met the play­ers early – I had most of the deal­ings in that re­spect – and I don’t see that chang­ing.”

The next two months, amid fan re­bel­lion and ac­ri­mony in the air, will go a long way to shap­ing Demp­ster’s des­tiny at Hibs. The club has had a calamity in rel­e­ga­tion and faces a very un­cer­tain 12 months ahead. Demp­ster, how­ever, evokes a fig­ure of con­vic­tion in this still very male-ori­en­tated en­vi­ron­ment.

“It’s not just the foot­ball that needs to change here at the club,” she said. “The non-foot­ball el­e­ment needs to change as well. It’s my job here – and my de­ter­mi­na­tion – to bring about a change in di­rec­tion.” Gor­don Rae, the one-time Hibs fans’ favourite, has told Rod Petrie his time is up and urged the un­der-fire chair­man to re­sign ‘for the good of the club’, writes Iain Collin.

Rae ac­cused Petrie of pre­sid­ing over the three worst re­sults in the his­tory of the 139-year-old club and threw his weight be­hind the cam­paign to oust him in the wake of the em­bar­rass­ment of rel­e­ga­tion from the Pre­mier­ship.

Rae, speak­ing from his home in Corfu, said: “Rod Petrie now has to face up to his re­spon­si­bil­ity. Un­der his stew­ard­ship we’ve seen the three most hu­mil­i­at­ing re­sults in our his­tory.

“Man­agers and play­ers all know deep down when their time is up. Surely he does too. Ev­ery­one has their shelf life.”

Pic­ture: SNS

LEAD­ING LADY: Leeann Demp­ster built con­sid­er­able con­tacts and ex­pe­ri­ence at Mother­well and will need them all to turn the for­tunes of Hiber­nian around.

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