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Butcher next in line for chop as Hibs fail to invest in players, claims McNamara

JACKIE McNAMARA used to live for matchday in his Easter Road playground.

Former Hibs player Jackie McNamara senses a growing panic amongst fans
Former Hibs player Jackie McNamara senses a growing panic amongst fans

These days, it is close to breaking his heart.

During a distinguished Hibs career he enjoyed the thrill of packed houses, cup finals and more than 300 appearances in all competitions.

How distant it must have seemed on Monday night as he watched the class of 2014 take their recent record to one win in 14 matches in a 2-0 reverse to Aberdeen, slide closer to the relegation play-off spot and leave manager Terry Butcher lined up, already, for the same kind of fate that befell the likes of Pat Fenlon, Colin Calderwood and John Hughes.

Talk in the bars of Edinburgh suggests problems already exist between some of these underperforming players and their no-nonsense coach, who left a comfortable home in Inverness to have a crack at whipping the club into shape in his own, inimitable style.

Whatever the reality, there is a growing panic developing around Leith. McNamara senses it in the mood of the supporters who still bother turning up to share every nerve-shredding moment of agony with their favourites.

He winces at the catcalls and despairs at the sight of a towering new stand full of empty seats. It is on the directors' box that he focuses most intently, though, in identifying the reasons behind this malaise. Of course, McNamara has history with chairman Rod Petrie. He was Jim Duffy's assistant when he was sent packing from the dug-out in 1997 and he has been a regular critic of the way Petrie has controlled the club during his spells as chief executive and chairman.

It's a continued lack of vision in the boardroom that infuriates him most, though. He is of the clear view that is what caused John Collins, the last man to lead the club to a trophy by capturing the League Cup in 2007, to walk away - although a meeting Petrie staged with senior players behind his back didn't exactly help matters.

"We can consider the recent run and put it down to lack of ability, but maybe it is connected to a lack of investment in talent as well," said McNamara.

"Terry wanted Adam Rooney because the boy scores goals, but he went to Aberdeen. Cillian Sheridan was of interest a couple of years ago as well, but St Johnstone were able to offer him a better deal. That's unacceptable. The club is becoming renowned for being stingy with wages and you get what you pay for.

"I don't think Rod has been held to account. He is a survivor and he'll probably get a job with the SFA and keep his blazer. That is the nature of the beast in football, but how many managers has he been through?

"John Collins had a smashing team, but the club sold all the good, young players.

"There is no lack of ambition within the supporters, but I believe there definitely is at board level. John didn't walk away for nothing - he was doing well.

"I don't blame Terry - or Maurice Malpas - but he is in the firing line now, and he knows it."

McNamara also worries that those Hibernian supporters who delighted in the thought of rubberstamping Hearts' relegation from the Premiership at Tynecastle last month - only to have those hopes dashed in a 2-0 defeat - may end up with a decidedly bitter taste of egg-on-face.

"I don't think Hibs will end up in the play-offs, but it is not looking great," he conceded. "Can you imagine the Hearts coming to Easter Road if they are in a position to take us down with them?

"The boot was on the other foot at Tynecastle recently, but this is why you have got to be careful what you wish for.

"Some people have been gloating about Hearts going out of business, but that's just stupid and naive. The clubs need each other."

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