So Bobby Williamson is on his way to Hibs. The
longest-serving manager in the SPL has left Kilmarnock
after more than five years to take over the poisoned Easter
Road chalice. What does it mean for the two clubs concerned?
For Killie, Williamson is going to be a tough act to follow.
The club's most successful manager since the days of Willie
Waddell wasn't always appreciated by a section of the
Rugby Park support. Maybe now that he's gone they'll
realise just how good a manager Williamson was for the Ayrshire
outfit. Given that Killie are almost out of the race for Europe
this season the board there are under no pressure to appoint
a new boss quickly. This is the most important decision they
have had to make since they gave Bobby his chance in December
1996. With a good youth structure in place and key players
on long-term deals, there is no reason why Kilmarnock shouldn't
continue to be one of Scotland's leading clubs. Their set-up
clearly works. The key is to appoint a new boss who will keep
it in place. So who will it be?
This particular Kilmarnock supporter wouldn't mind them having
a look at either Jimmy Nicholl or Ian McCall,
men who have proved their worth at management on a small or
non-existent budget and who would see the job as a step up
and a worthwhile challenge. There's no sense in approaching
Jim Jefferies (who, amazingly and brazenly, touted
himself for the Hibs job) or Craig Brown. If
these men aren't good enough for Hibernian, they're not good
enough for Kilmarnock.
Killie have to look ahead. Bobby Williamson has been
a great manager and if he isn't recognised as such now, he
will be in the future. In the years to come, supporters will
look back fondly on the Williamson era as "the good
old days." Let's hope the same can be said about
his successor. Meanwhile, it's thanks Bobby, goodbye and good
As for Hibs, they've got themselves the
best manager in the SPL. Over five years at Rugby Park,
a Scottish Cup win, a League Cup Final, three 4th place finishes,
four European qualifications in five seasons and still only
40 years old. Williamson is quite a catch. And the Easter
Road slackers had better watch out. Williamson doesn't suffer
fools period, let alone gladly. Anyone not pulling their weight
will either soon be out the door or exiled to the under-21s.
Young players will be given their chance. They'll also be
protected from overplaying and swollen-headedness. It won't
be cavalier football, but it won't be hump-and-hope either.
But there are potential pitfalls as well. Williamson probably
reckoned that he had taken Kilmarnock as far as he could.
However, even though Hibs are undoubtedly a better supported
side, that brings increased expectations. If certain sections
of the Kilmarnock support were grumbling after a few defeats,
what will it be like at Easter Road? Many Hibs fans idolised
Sauzee and will be in no mood to welcome the new boss. Regrettably,
even though this is the 21st century, there is still an element
at Easter Road who will never accept Williamson, given that
he is a former Rangers player. The last manager to bring
a trophy to Leith - Alex Miller - also suffered as a result
of this prejudice. And should Hibs go through the sort of
patch Kilmarnock endured in 1999-2000 when they slumped to
second botttom, will the Easter Road board stick by Williamson
the way Kilmarnock did? Anyone tempted to answer yes to
the last question should make their appointment with the white-coated
gentlemen outside now. We're talking about a board who sacked
a club legend after less than ten weeks!
And if the result that got Sauzee sacked was the League
Cup defeat by Ayr, then that spells further bad
news for Bobby. His Killie team were beaten three times by
the Somerset Park side in knockout competitions! Indeed,
the record against lower league sides is the one undoubted
blemish on Williamson's record at Rugby Park. Ayr apart, there
were defeats by Airdrie and Alloa as well as
a 6-2 shocker at Stirling Albion.
Still, overall, Hibs have got themselves a first class manager
but it might take time for their fans to recognise the fact.
Just one little thing for them to worry about. If things
don't work out for McLeish at Ibrox, who do you think would
be next on David Murray's shopping list?
The sacking of Franck Sauzee by Hibernian is a situation
tailor-made for the likes of Ron Manager. I can hear him
now. "Football - isn't it? 69 days to turn round a team
on the slide for over a year. Idolised by the fans. Praised by the
board. Sacked? The little Gallic genius with the twinkling toes?
But the Sauzee debacle goes beyond parody. Hibs took the easy way
out following the loss of Alex McLeish to Rangers.
The appointment of Sauzee appeased the support but did little else
for a club that has been in freefall for over a year. Quite how
anyone expected the Frenchman to turn the Easter Road club round
in under ten weeks is incomprehensible. That's not time enough to
offload McLeish's expensive flops (De La Cruz, Hurtado, for
example). But it was time for him to bring in three new players
on long-term contracts. Quite what happens to them now is an open
At the time of his appointment, Sauzee also announced his decision
to give up playing. So inside a little over two months, Hibs have
lost two managers and their best player! In return they have gained
three hefty additions of questionable value to the wage bill!
Clearly the problems at Easter Road are not going to be solved overnight.
Avoiding relegation is hardly the issue here - they are nine points
clear of a St Johnstone team that has looked doomed since
day one of the season - but while the heady days of qualifying for
Europe and reaching the Scottish Cup Final may have
been only a year ago, it looks like it will be a lot longer than
twelve months before the Hibees can attain such heights again.