Hibernian start manager search as Shaun Maloney gamble backfires

A damaging double derby defeat by Hearts cost the former Scotland international his job.

By Press Association Published: 19 April 2022 - 5.31pm

Hibernian are looking for another new manager after ending their gamble on Shaun Maloney after just four months.

Maloney was head-hunted by Hibs chief executive Ben Kensell and left his role as Belgium assistant manager to take up the role in December, but a damaging double derby defeat by Hearts has cost the former Scotland international his job.

Chairman Ron Gordon said in a statement: “Our hope in appointing Shaun Maloney as a young, highly-regarded coach was that he would help us take the club forward, but ultimately it didn’t work out.

“We thank Shaun and his coaching staff for all their hard work and efforts and wish them all the best for the future.”

Gordon has again shown he will not shy away from change after sacking Jack Ross in December with the club preparing for the Premier Sports Cup final.

Ross also led Hibs to the Scottish Cup final and a third-placed finish last season as well as two other semi-finals during his two years in charge.

Maloney, who took over the day after Hibs’ cup final defeat by Celtic, won his first two matches in charge against Aberdeen and Dundee United.

But Hibernian have only won one cinch Premiership game in 2022 and a 3-1 league defeat against Hearts consigned them to a bottom-six finish before they lost 2-1 to their rivals in the Scottish Cup semi-finals.

Martin Boyle
Martin Boyle’s departure hit Hibs (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Maloney has been without a full team of players at times through illness, injury and suspension – with Scotland striker Kevin Nisbet out long term – and the club sold Australia winger Martin Boyle late in the transfer window.

Hibs, who have chairman Gordon’s son, Ian, leading their recruitment team, brought in a number of largely inexperienced players in January with the likes of Jamie Murphy, Alex Gogic and Melker Hallberg also moving on.

Maloney claimed on Saturday at Hampden that he knew “exactly” what was needed for his side to be able to compete with Hearts next season.

Heart of Midlothian v Hibernian – Scottish Cup – Semi Final – Hampden Park
Hearts’ Liam Boyce consoles Hibernian’s Harrison Clarke after the Scottish Cup semi final match at Hampden Park (Steve Welsh/PA Images).

“I have known for quite a while the areas where we need to be better to give us an opportunity to fight for top six, top four, Europe. I have known that from very early on,” he said after his 10 men suffered a 2-1 defeat.

He will not get the chance to implement his plans with backroom staff Gary Caldwell, Valerio Zuddas and Brian Doogan also leaving with immediate effect.

Former skipper David Gray will, again, take caretaker charge for the remainder of the season with support from Eddie May and Jon Busch.

That will give Hibs the time to choose a successor, with Celtic assistant John Kennedy and former Middlesbrough and Bournemouth boss Jonathan Woodgate among those being linked with the post.

The club have come in for major criticism, with Maloney’s former Celtic team-mate Chris Sutton hitting out at the decision on Twitter.

“This is ridiculous,” Sutton said. “He’s hardly been in the door 5 minutes… what message does this send to young aspiring coaches??”

Former Hibs skipper Ian Murray, who is guiding Airdrie to another promotion charge, told BBC Radio Scotland: “Four months is nothing, it really isn’t. What I struggle to comprehend is how you can put ideas across to a board of directors and they think it’s good and then four months later they decide it’s not a good idea any more.

“Obviously results weren’t to the standard that Hibs expect or should be at, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s very, very difficult to have such a drastic change that Shaun wanted to do in terms of style of play. He was backed to do that four months ago and suddenly he’s not.”

Stuart Lovell
Stuart Lovell feels Hibs were hasty twice this season (Ben Curtis/PA)

Former Hibs midfielder Stuart Lovell had similar views.

“I come from the old school where I like to see people given a fair crack of the whip and I don’t believe that Shaun Maloney has been given that,” Lovell told Sky Sports News.

“I think we just seem to be in this modern world of professional football where if someone has a poor run of results, there is a hire-and-fire-’em attitude from certain clubs. I don’t agree with it.

“I wonder if the board at Hibs, if they had their time again, would give Jack Ross more opportunity to turn results around because I think his results during his tenure had earned that.

“They decided to go down the route of getting a young, inexperienced but, in their words, exciting young coach in Shaun Maloney.

“I think any manager is entitled to get more time than four months and just one transfer window, which of course was a January transfer window, which is never as easy to move players out or move players in.”

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