Mathie defends recruitment set-up at Hibs despite slow start
GRAEME MATHIE, the Hibernian sporting director, has defended the Easter Road club’s much-maligned summer signing policy but insists they are making constant strides to improve their recruitment.
While Paul Heckingbottom paid the price for an underwhelming start to the campaign with his job earlier this month, many of the players he brought to the club have also found themselves in the firing line.
The likes of Adam Jackson, Josh Vela, Joe Newell and Glenn Middelton have failed to shine among 10 newcomers this term, with Scott Allan and Melker Hallberg arguably the only two standout successes of the batch.
Prior to illustrating his predatory instincts with a clinical hat-trick against St Johnstone in Hibs’ last fixture, £350,000 striker Christian Doidge was another arrival who has failed to set the heather alight, becoming something of a lightning rod for fans’ ire.
Mathie, however, is circumspect regarding some of the fury that has been directed towards the department he was, until recently, in charge of.
“You don’t operate in performance sport if you want to be immune to criticism,” said Mathie, who was the club’s head of recruitment during the closeseason before ascending to sporting director.
“We criticise ourselves at times because we want to reflect on things.
“I’ve done a big piece of work now to look at the recruitment we’ve done over the last five-anda-half years.
“We’ve looked at the signings that have turned out positively and maybe those that haven’t – and let’s see if we can identify key factors to allow us to be better next time.
“However. the unfortunate thing in football is that you get an appraisal three times a week! If a result is positive, life’s good and recruitment’s great. If it goes the other way, it’s the opposite.
“We take some of the criticism over the summer on the chin but we believe the players are good players. It’s never an exact science when you recruit.”
The same can be said of managerial appointments. However, Mathie is confident Jack Ross will prove to be an inspired choice by Hibs and is not perturbed by his dismissal after 17 months in charge of Sunderland, during which he failed to gain promotion from League One.
Indeed, he can effortlessly reel off the swathe of positives which he feels outweighed any negatives.
“A lot is said about Jack having the biggest budget in League One, which is true,” continued Mathie. “But you have to dig deeper and realise that he was attempting to transition players on League One salaries into a dressing room with others earning Premier League wages.
“That’s a challenge. He was trying to get them to be part of a team and work together. That ability to manage individuals and get the best out of them came across.
“We are a club looking to transition through young players, which he has done. He has picked the right time to bring through young players at his previous clubs and brought about sales.
“Other aspects were his ability to change shape and formation to adapt to the teams and players he was up against and his ability to turn draws into wins with positive substitutions.”
He added: “No-one gets the Hibs job based on a good interview or PowerPoint presentation.
“It should give Jack a lot of comfort that the process was as rigorous as it was because he was the outstanding candidate.”
Ross will come into a welldefined structure at the Hibernian Training Centre, bringing just assistant head coach John Potter to the club with him.
Aside from that he will work with existing coaches Colin Nish, Grant Murray, Alan Combe and Lee Makel, head of academy coaching Eddie May, performance analyst Calvin Charlton and Mathie himself.
“There is a lot written and thought about the ‘structure’ here – but the structure is just a number of people doing their jobs,” said Mathie.
“The head coach role is to deliver performances and results on a Saturday. So the question is: what can we do, as a staff, to support that?
“Jack has the final say on who he signs, the team he picks, the formation he plays. None of that is dictated by anyone other than him.
“But we’ve all got to be on the edge of things. It’s not just down to the head coach or his assistant. We can’t operate like that because that’s not how you get the best out of a highperformance environment.”