Hibs and Hearts: Reporter's notebook on search for managers
By Charles Paterson, Sky Sports News reporter
Last Updated: 05/11/19 7:23pm
With both Edinburgh clubs without managers, Sky Sports News' Charles Paterson examines how Hibernian and Hearts will find replacements...
If someone with no knowledge of football in Edinburgh arrived in the city this week and spoke to local supporters about the state of affairs at the two capital clubs, they might receive an unexpectedly upbeat prognosis.
For months, Hibernian and Hearts fans have been clamouring for managerial change; suddenly, in a matter of days, both fan bases have received their wish.
Hibernian's decision to sack Paul Heckingbottom on Monday was not a huge surprise, given the poor form this season and the unrest in the stands.
Hibs hadn't won a league game since the opening weekend, but the team's style of play as much as results were driving supporters to protest in front of the main entrance of Easter Road as long ago as September.
Heckingbottom went 10 matches unbeaten at the start of his tenure - a club record for a new manager - but his reign was undermined by poor recruitment during the summer. Midfielder Marvin Bartley moved on with no like-for-like replacement brought in.
Striker Christian Doidge, a signing Heckingbottom described as "a statement of intent", has scored only twice since arriving from Forest Green Rovers, while Josh Vela and Joe Newell amongst others have failed to impress.
The manager then upset supporters when questioning their criticism of substituting Scott Allan during a game against St Johnstone.
Hibernian are now searching for an eighth manager in ten years, but the remit for any candidate appears simple.
Hibs fans want their team playing attractive football, whilst competing for a European place and challenging in domestic cup competitions. In short, exactly what they had under Neil Lennon for two-and-a-half years.
The decision to dispense with Lennon in January after an internal row appears more flawed by the day, considering his success since returning to Celtic.
The great unknown is new Hibernian owner Ron Gordon - nobody knows what he wants from his team, or how much he will influence the recruitment process.
Chief Executive Leeann Dempster has identified the last three Hibs managers; the first two (Alan Stubbs and Lennon) were successful, while Heckingbottom fell short of expectations.
If she leads this process, another failure would place her position under scrutiny.
The notion that Hibernian and Hearts might both be eyeing up the same managerial candidates is an easy one to make, but also perhaps false.
The appointment in Leith appears more straightforward than across the city, where Hearts owner Ann Budge has outlined her desire to change the club's structure after Craig Levein's sacking.
Budge says she regrets giving Levein the manager's job on top of his responsibility as Director of Football - that position will disappear, with a new Sporting Director role being created alongside that of the manager.
Hibernian already have a Sporting Director in Graeme Mathie, their current Head of Recruitment, who'll take up his new role in January.
Hearts need to fill both positions, and Budge admits the Sporting Director role is "crucial", while saying she wants "an experienced, high profile" manager to drive the club forward.
With no football background to call on when she took over in 2014, Budge leaned heavily on Levein for guidance. With his departure, another Hearts legend is an obvious choice to be her next confidante - former player and manager Jim Jefferies.
The 1998 Scottish Cup winner suffered a heart-attack in September, but is recovering well, and would listen to his former club if they came calling once again.
Jefferies gave Neil McCann his first coaching job at Dunfermline, with the former Hearts and Scotland winger later taking on a difficult role as Dundee manager.
McCann has publicly expressed his interest in a role at Hearts, while another former Tynecastle favourite who could be tempted is David Weir, currently working as a pathway development manager for Brighton.
Hibernian meanwhile are expected to speak with Jack Ross, available after being let go by Sunderland, but with his stock still high in Scotland.
Ross ironically was part of Hearts' youth department until leaving in curious circumstances in 2015; it's highly unlikely he'd return to Tynecastle, but Hibs may be a perfect fit if he can work alongside Mathie.
He has never managed in Scotland's top division but is believed to be a popular choice in the Hibs dressing room.
Former Hibernian managers John Hughes and Alan Stubbs would both return to Easter Road if the opportunity arose, while Motherwell's Stephen Robinson is being linked to both clubs.
Ultimately, he would need to accept working in a different structure to what he's been used to at Fir Park if he moved to Edinburgh in either capacity.
The theory either club need a manager with emotional ties to each is flawed - both won their most recent major trophies under men with no links to their respective clubs (Stubbs and Paulo Sergio).
While sometimes this strategy pays off, such as under Jefferies or John Collins, it usually backfires, as Hughes, Levein, Mixu Paatelainen, John Robertson and many others can attest to.
Allowing the heart to rule the head when appointing a manager in Edinburgh usually leads to a messy breakup.
Perhaps what Hibernian and Hearts require is a fresh outlook; someone such as German coach Daniel Stendel, a popular and attack-minded coach at Barnsley whose sacking sparked an outcry in Yorkshire, would be an innovative and exciting appointment.
Hibernian and Hearts have underachieved for years - the opportunity is there for both Edinburgh clubs to push forward in positive fashion and free themselves from the shackles of mediocrity.
Yet their current perilous league positions indicate neither will take any risks - instead familiar names with an understanding of Scottish football are more likely to be high up the shortlists of the respective boards.