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Look east to Hibs for surprise appointment

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Jim Spence | 20:46 UK time, Wednesday, 3 June 2009

With the Hoops, the Dandy Dons and the Hibees all head-hunting for a new manager, it's a great time to be a football journalist.

In the absence of solid information from the clubs (what's new there?), broadcasters and hacks can take speculative punts dressed up as informed guesswork, as to the men who will eventually drink from football's poisoned chalices at Parkhead, Pittodrie and Easter Road.

Celtic is the top job. With due apologies to the other two, I think that's a fair assumption, even for one who doesn't lose sleep over the fortunes of Glasgow's Old Firm.

But is it as big a job and attractive a proposition as Celtic fans think?

Maybe not, when the managers of Burnley and Swansea seem to find the lure of Turf Moor and the Liberty Stadium, respectively, to be a more heavenly proposition than that of Paradise.

Celtic's meandering attempts to replace Gordon Strachan have so far resembled Gordon Brown's efforts to control his Cabinet, carried out in the full glare of publicity and with a lack of panache and style.

It is difficult to believe that Strachan decided suddenly to resign the day Celtic failed to win the title, so it's a reasonable punt to suggest that the club have been somewhat tardy in tying up their new boss.

So far the names of Owen Coyle, Tony Mowbray and Roberto Martinez have failed to ignite passions in the East End of Glasgow, while Aberdeen and Hibs fans seem to have been stunned into a rare reticence by the sharp exits of Jimmy Calderwood and Mixu Paateleinen.

To placate their fans the Celtic board simply have to find someone who is "Celtic minded", has the managerial nous of Guus Hiddink, the commitment to style of Arsene Wenger, and who can operate on a footballing budget equivalent to a week's takings at a Barrowland stall.

Answers on a postcard to chief executive Peter Lawwell, please.

Personally, I think any of the three names mentioned could do a very good job indeed, but Celtic need to get their man in place quickly to get the season-ticket rush under way.

Aberdeen's board don't face such a difficult task; they simply need to unearth the new Fergie. Despite protests that they're not encumbered by the suffocating weight of past glories, a couple of generations of Dons fans can still savour the taste of European success and remember the regular hammerings handed out to the Old Firm.Mark McGhee, John Hughes and Michael O'Neill are being touted as potential candidates for the managerial vacancies in the SPL

No pressure there on the new man, then.

Mark McGhee appears to have divided Aberdeen supporters but he has impressed with Motherwell and would bring a bit of pzazz to Pittodrie.

So too would John Hughes, whose exemplary work on the youth set-up at Falkirk, allied to a commitment to good football, makes me think the Dons should at least contemplate talking to Yogi. His passion for the game could re-ignite the Aberdeen fans.

Hibs are an altogether different case. Those with a soft spot for the swashbuckling football which is their legacy sometimes despair of the parsimonious and penny-pinching approach to running the Easter Road outfit.

Their new manager will need a strong constitution as prized assets are stripped to keep the coffers swelling, and bank manager happy.

Michael O'Neill is a former financial advisor and Hibs player. Articulate and savvy, he could be the man to restore a sense of purpose - if he can be prised away from Shamrock Rovers.

However, Jim Gannon, the former Stockport boss, has been heavily backed at the bookies, and the Newcastle United academy director Richard Money is another name understood to be interesting the Hibs board.

With Rod Petrie's ability to confound journalists and fans alike, an appointment from leftfield could mean that, yet again, it's the Edinburgh club who spring the surprise managerial package in Scottish football.


  • Comment number 1.

    Mowbray for Celtic, McGee for Dons, and O'Neill for Hibs?

  • Comment number 2.

    I really don't understand where people get this notion that Aberdeen supporters expect nothing less from their managerial team than recreating the glory days of the 80s. Nobody expects that. It's a straw man, and it's not based on anything anybody has actually said. Yes, we could be better, especially with a decent core of players and young talent. Moreover, I rarely hear anything but gratitude towards Calderwood for what he has achieved at Pittodrie, but the team had stagnated, he has shown unerring support of mediocre players (Mackie, Foster and others), and does not have the tactical savvy to take Aberdeen a step higher. That's why his departure, after a 5-year run, has been welcomed.

  • Comment number 3.

    Let's see: Your name is Mowbray, and you lead your team to the bottom of the English Premier League and to relegation, winning only 8 of your team's 38 premier league encounters, and this makes you a hot prospect to coach Celtic? What does this say about the quality of the football, not to mention the managers, in the SPL ?

  • Comment number 4.

    Only someone that knows the Scottish game will take the top job at Celtic as far as I'm concerned. Outsiders looking in will not know of Strachan's run ins with the media, his strange team selections at times, and his general "I'll answer to nobody" attitude that the Celtic fans hated more than anything else. To a good quality european manager, pretty much all they will see will be Strachan's record at Celtic Park, and the fact that he left the club because he never really won over the fans, and will think to themselves that if a man with a record like that isnt appreciated by the fans, then its a bit of a poisoned challis.

  • Comment number 5.

    It's been a while since I have been able to listen to sportsound but is Jim Spence the guy who would come on and say someone had scored a goal only for him to have to come back on two minutes later to correct the identity of the scorer. This happened at nearly every goal he saw. Does he still do this?

  • Comment number 6.

    Can we please lose this "Celtic-minded" cliche? Strachan wasn't disliked by the Celtic support; he just wasn't as popular as O'Neill. Because he wasn't as good as O'Neill. O'Neill's teams looked like losing wasn't an option. Sometimes Strachan's teams looked like scoring was not an option.

    If Celtic appoint a good manager the fans won't care if he's "Celtic-minded" or not.

    The phrase is no more than journalistic code to accuse Celtic fans of religious narrow-mindedness without the usual journalistic bother of having to back it up with facts. I was surprised to see Spence use it.

  • Comment number 7.

    I think that the queue to be interviewed for the Celtic job will be round Parkhead twice, IF and when the Board realise that they will have to cough a "settling in" transfer fund to allow a spot of rebuilding to the spine of the team.

    Noone is going to come in to a stale squad will barely enough money on offer to get the necessary first-choice CB, let alone the LB that has been missing since Tosh McKinlay! Or the proper wide midfielder that can get around the outside of his marker, or the physically strong goalscorer to build the attack around.......

    The Celtic job seems a bit unnappealing to some managers because they can see that what needs done and the finances proposed to do it with just don't add up!!

  • Comment number 8.

    Anyone who has listened to Your Call with Jim Traynor over the last couple of years will have heard enough Celtic callers denouncing Strachan for not being "a Celtic man" and enough Aberdeen fans calling for Calderwood's head to know there must be at least an element of such sentiment amongst the fans of these clubs.

    Fair enough it may be some kind of "lunatic fringe" of Celtic and Aberdeen fans, but it is at least a very vocal minority. Craig Levein commented on it recently when he said that he felt that, perhaps due to our relegation in the mid 90's, our fans were more realistic than our counterparts in Aberdeen. Even if, then, it is only the minority of fans who think like this they give the impression that half the stadium has unreasonable expectations, to other fans and potential managerial candidates alike.

  • Comment number 9.

    For the last couple of years every Celtic supporter knew exactly what to expect from Strachan by way of tactics. If we knew, so did the opposition. We were predictable and therefore easy to prepare for, and given our lack of scoring on many occasions, easy to get a result against. Strachan's answer was all too often to pull off a striker and replace with...another striker. His team selections by comparison were not predictable. On occasions, bizarre would be a better word.

    His insistance on flying in the face of all reason was in my opinion the main basis on which certain sections of the support did not entirely warm to him. He did well from a trophies point of view so many thanks to him but its time for a change.

    I'm not keen on McGhee for the position but otherwise i'll be happy to see what happens.

  • Comment number 10.

    I think Celtic could do a lot worse than going for Yogi. Everyone goes on about Martinez and his style of play, Falkirk have brought through many good young players and had very successful loan signings on a shoe string budget, which is thanks to Yogi and his management team. Add to that he is something of a cult legend at Parkhead, his free flowing football would be lapped up by the fans

  • Comment number 11.

    Let's see: Your name is Mowbray, and you lead your team to the bottom of the English Premier League and to relegation, winning only 8 of your team's 38 premier league encounters, and this makes you a hot prospect to coach Celtic? What does this say about the quality of the football, not to mention the managers, in the SPL ?


    What does it say? It tells the truth.

    Unless Celtic and Rangers get out of the Scottish league and into the EPL they will fall further out of sight.

    (And if Celtic and Rangers did get out, that would improve things for the remaining clubs in the SPL. Genuine competition for once).

  • Comment number 12.

    As a dons fan I think JC record with us on the whole was good. However it was time for him to go for a few reasons, the shocking cup exits 3 times, 2 of these when the club should have made the final, his tactics either defied logic or were socre one and sit. Then add to these his media comments in vien one never appceting blame for defeats and also before the Celtic game talk of having taken the as far as he could, he clearly had lost the desire and ambition to go on.

    As for the other 2 clubs Hibs fans weren't nearly as keen to get rid of there man as the rest of us but, they flattered to deceive all season and 6th place for hibs can be called ok at best, simply put Mixu wasn't as good as then men that came before him. While GS was disliked by many Celtic fans from day 1 losing 5-1 to a bunch of no hopers from Solvakia will do that, and while he brought a good deal of sliverware to he club his attitude was horrible! any explantion to why Adien Mcgeady didn't play in the old firm? love him or loath, I very much loath him, he's pretty much there best player in that team. In the end I reckon many a tic fan would say the 0-0 with hearts summed up GS at parkhead.

  • Comment number 13.

    A source close to Scot Brown claims Peter Grant could be the new man. He has been at Parkhead this week.........

  • Comment number 14.

    Great blog!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 15.

    Here Here No6!

  • Comment number 16.

    One name seems to have been overlooked for the Celtic job so far - that being John Collins. He is "celtic minded" whatever that may mean these days; his Hibs team produced some stunning football AND knew how to win; he produced some amazing transfer deals out of the hat; he has impeccable playing credentials and coaching credentials; and he's on good terms with the all important media crew, which should buy him some breathing room to get on with the job before the inevitable ripped apart Celtic badge and "Crisis" headlines appear before Xmas.

    The mighty JC is the way forward.

  • Comment number 17.

    There's a rumour on the go that John Reid visited 10 Downing Street and offered the Celtic job to Gordon Brown. Brown has apparently accepted, but only on the understanding that the Tims are renamed "Team GB". Apparently this is partly out of personal vanity, and partly to break off any connections with a curious phenomenon called "the Celtic way".

    Gordon Brown acknowledged that he and Reid had "talked about football", but was not prepared to elaborate.

    A spokesman for Celtic confirmed that any new manager would have to be "prudent".

  • Comment number 18.


    To be fair those managers you mentioned are not choosing Turf Moor or the Liberty Stadium over Celtic Park - they're choosing the EPL over the SPL. Are you saying that if Celtic were in the EPL that these guys would really be knocking back Celtic to stay at Burnley or move to Wigan?

    It's an age old argument (EPL teams v The Old Firm) which never takes place on a level playing field!

    Instead of knocking Celtic for apparently not being able to attract managers over Burnley or Wigan perhaps the blog would have been better looking at why the English perception of the Scottish football scene is so negative?

    We all know it's crap up here so I don't really understand why we pretend otherwise and get shocked or our journalists nab column lines saying the manager or Burnley doesn't want to come back to Scotland to manage Celtic and make on it's because Celtic isn't an attractive proposition. Like I said it's not the club it's the league Celtic plays in.

  • Comment number 19.

    Excellent article Jim although I find it intersting you mentioned Hughes for the Aberdeen job but not the Hibs one where he has been most bookies favourite from day 1.

    Am I reading too much into this or is there something you know but arent telling us?

    Anyway, I like the sound of a few names (Hughes and Gannon seem promising) but not so sure about O'Neill. His record seem very similar to Mixu's (did well with lower league Scottish team then returned to coach in home country with lesser side where he did well if unspectacular). Maybe its unfair to tar him with the same brush as Mixu but I would like someone with a bit more epxerience than managing in the lower leagues in Scotland and taking control of a team in Ireland which if im honest I dont really rate as a league.

  • Comment number 20.

    I agree journalists - no, let's call rumour-mongers by their proper name shall we - HACKS - have nothing better to do than fill column inches with twaddle which is too easy to demolish. West Bromwich Albion have said they have received no approach from Celtic to talk to Tony Mowbray and would not welcome one. Celtic have said they have not approached West Bromwich Albion for permission to talk to Tony Mowbray. Celtic have however approached Swansea for permission to talk to Roberto Martinez, but the Swansea chairman wants to talk to Martinez first. Owen Coyle of Burnley is on the verge of signing a new contract there, David Moyes isn't interested, and Celtic don't seem interested in Mark McGhee. So who is there who hasn't actually come out and said he's not interested in the Celtic job? Tony Mowbray. So the hacks just ignore all the statements put out by Albion and Celtic and bash out reports saying that they "understand" Celtic are in talks with Tony Mowbray. Somebody's lying - either Celtic, West Bromwich Albion or the media. Who's your money on?

  • Comment number 21.

    I have to say im rather dissapointed with the list of names that has come up for the hibs post. Is this all we can bring together? I seen Bruce Rioch was a name mentioned when the post first came available but i havent heard anything since. Would love to have him in charge!
    we need an old head at the helm rather than experimenting with new young managers!

  • Comment number 22.

    As the money has dryed up and the quality players are largely looking elsewhere to ply their trade so it comes to pass that this very same scenario finds it's level with the standard of applicant applying for vacant scottish league manager positions. Gone are the days when the SPL could attract the likes of Martin O'Neill and Dick Advocaat. I believe that in future SPL boardrooms will choose from a small list of former players to fill the void. Better to choose the player they trust with their dwindling cashflow than giving the post to an unknown quantity. When the going gets tough the wages get slashed and so the quality tumbles.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    I think it would be unfortunate to say the least if Aberdeen consider SPL re-tread managers. Calderwood had his faults (critising his players in public & one/two dubious signings) but so to do the others under consideration. None of the others however, have taken their teams as far as Calderwood has. I don't think we have to look too far to identify the common denominator(s) in Aberdeen's failure. I just hope that the foundations of the houses are better than those at AFC. But that's an other story so to speak.

  • Comment number 25.

    I want to back up markrp. Did Celtic fans generally have any problem with Jansen or Venglos because they weren't originally Celtic fans? (Most were sad at Jansen's departure.) Indeed, I would add Barnes to that. He quite quickly became unpopular, but he started on a wave of good will and the change had nothing to do with his prior lack of affinity with Celtic.

  • Comment number 26.


    I'm beginning to think that blogs and phone-ins are leading to an unpresidented era of punter power that isn't really helping the game. With everyone having a mobile and a laptop the stream of information is constant and it's obviously a profitable area as the amount of forums testifies to.

    Now I've listened to your radio show and it's essential for the game as it tackles most of the less media-friendly teams of Scotland but here you are canvassing opinion on the plum jobs in the SPL. Why? I'm sure there's just as pressing issues in league 2 that could do with some input.

    Looking at 2 of the recent departures I can't help but draw comparisons -WGS at Celtic and JC at Aberdeen. Both were managers that were not associated with the clubs they managed, in fact both could be said to be associated with rivals. Both took their respective clubs to positions that outstripped the blokes they succeeded. Both did so with considerably less money than their predecessors.

    But both were constantly scrutinised and crticised in the media for not being suitably "minded". Then the age old excused of style over substance was trotted out - "if only they played better football...".

    Now WGS walked while JC was pushed but I can't help but think the constant barrage from the press helped either of them. The football world has changed in the last 5 years and the likes of Larsson are not going to ply their trade here so the football's going to be worse off for it but this never seems to be looked at realistically in the press.

    Instead it's just a failure to look at the facts and talk more about about the chip we've developed against a richer league down South.

    If we keep this up we'll demoralise all potentially ambitious managers from working here and only assist in lowering crowds at games.

    It's our game after all.


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