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Terry Butcher, once again, is standing at the crossroads

As only he can, Terry Butcher was brazenly talking up Hibernian's chances of escaping the Premiership's dreaded play-off spot before today's match.

The season has been one big headache for Terry Butcher and Hibs chairman Rod Petrie. Picture: SNS
The season has been one big headache for Terry Butcher and Hibs chairman Rod Petrie. Picture: SNS

In truth, the 55-year-old Englishman has actually been talking up his own chances of survival in the Hibs job. What else was he to do - place a noose around his neck?

When he took on the Hibs job last November, few thought it would ever come to this. Yes, there were some doubts expressed, including the usual stuff about "Edinburgh is no Inverness" and the like, but the notion that Hibs would abysmally sink as they have done under Butcher was not anticipated.

It has been pretty cataclysmic. For the avoidance of doubt, Hibs had garnered 15 points from 11 league games under Pat Fenlon - a man routinely trashed - to sit seventh in the Premiership. But Butcher's record is far worse: in his 27 league games in charge Hibs have added just a further 20 points - significantly off the pace set by Fenlon - and now finished second bottom.

Butcher arrived at Hibs breathing fire, relishing the challenge, and pumping his fists down on the Easter Road pitch after a 2-1 win over Hearts in just his eighth game in charge. The Hibs choirs sang beautifully that cold January night in Edinburgh - about the last time they were heard.

A month after his appointment I sat with Butcher in his office at Hibs' training complex near Tranent to muse over his chances. I felt optimistic for Butcher and the club, as did he, though we did openly explore his occasional disasters as a manager.

"It has been a bizarre managerial route for me," he said. "My highs have been high but my lows have been very low. I've had some disasters. I went to Australia in 2006 to manage Sydney FC [Butcher was sacked after nine months] and then to Brentford, where I was manager for seven months in 2007. Blimey, these were wretched times. But I learned a hell of a lot from those experiences."

You can only guess that he did. His near five years in the Highlands with Caley Thistle had quite a few hairy moments, including relegation, before Big Tel stumbled upon a system, worked up a head of steam, and really took off with his players. The consistency and stability he finally brought to Inverness were lauded, though even then, Butcher had a habit of flying by the seat of his pants.

He placed great faith - and still does - in Steve Marsella, his chief scout, who routinely would bring hordes of unheard of journeymen to Inverness from England and beyond for Butcher to gel into a fighting unit.

Butcher's managerial style - maybe evident in his record - plays on chance and risk and opportunism. In one way it is thoroughly unscientific.

Hibs now face the knee-knocking prospect of a home-and-away playoff against one from Hamilton Accies or Queen of the South.

The fate of Hibs has once more raised the vexed subject of chief benefactor Tom Farmer and chairman Rod Petrie. It has been obvious from social media that many supporters want both men gone, though what exactly Farmer has done wrong, save for rescue the club as an institution in Edinburgh, is hard to fathom.

Butcher's team has been called "gutless", "passionless" and "clueless" by their own supporters as these dreadful days have passed. It has not made for pretty viewing.

The hour of his reckoning is looming for Butcher. "I love being at Hibs, even though I have a huge fight on our hands," he told me. "This is a big club, a proud club, and it was a fantastic opportunity for me to come here. It's a huge honour for me just being here."

Few Hibs fans today will read these words with contentment. On the contrary, quite a few of them want to wring Butcher's neck. It's an old football tradition down Leith way.

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