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Hands off our Hibs, say fans

Embattled Hibernian chairman Rod Petrie has underestimated supporters' desire to see him walk away from Easter Road, with the feeling among the fan-base every bit as strong as when the existence of the club was on the line 24 years ago.

That is the view of Kenny McLean Jr and Mark McLean, son and grandson respectively of Kenny McLean Snr, the former Hibs vice-chairman and leader of the Hands Off Hibs movement of 1990.

At that time fans were fighting to stave off a takeover attempt by Hearts chairman Wallace Mercer - and fearful fans mobilised to resist, with rallies, fund-raising events and vociferous protests taking place.

Mark admits his family still "bear the scars" from his grandfather's part in the campaign, but he says the current malaise at the club has been enough to spark the McLeans back into action.

With no suggestions Petrie will relinquish his role as a non-executive chairman, the "Petrie Out" campaign, fronted by Kenny, former player Paul Kane and Hibernian Supporters Association chairman Mike Riley, hope to use fan power to oust the 58-year-old.

A visibly emotional Mark explained: "As a family, we have been there, seen it and done it. And we have the scars to show for it. It was difficult back then and not a nice thing to go through - but, lo and behold, here we are again.

"It is hard to compare the situation now with 1990, because the sheer existence of the football club was under threat back then.

"The feeling of the fans, however, is every bit as strong. The sense of disillusionment and sadness is well beyond anything I have seen for a long time. I don't believe Mr Petrie understands the depth of feeling out there."

Kenny added: "To use a building analogy, the foundations of Hibs have never been laid properly. It's been done on a whim and a prayer and everything has imploded; it's fallen down. It has to stop and the only way it will stop is if Petrie is out the door."

The 'Petrie Out' campaign have been at pains to point out they have not urged supporters to "starve" the club of funds.

However, Kenny believes the disillusionment of the supporters means it is inevitable that more and more fans will drift away from the club unless Petrie ends his 10-year tenure at the helm of the Easter Road club.

The 65-year-old said: "If Rod Petrie stays I believe the supporters will stay away in their numbers. I now know more Hibs supporters that don't go to games than those that do.

"That is happening throughout our support, and unless he [Petrie] is away they will struggle to sell season tickets, attract a crowd and will see corporate revenue fall."

While their bid to remove Petrie was unanimously backed by those present in the modestly sized Hibs Supporters Club on Friday morning, the wider popular support of the movement will become clearer this coming Saturday.

Incoming chief executive Leeann Dempster is set to meet with various Hibs supporters bodies at Easter Road this coming Saturday, and fans have been urged to use the opportunity to stage an 11am protest outside the stadium.

Mark was keen to emphasise that Dempster would receive the full backing of supporters following her arrival from Motherwell - but he has no faith she will be given free rein to revitalise the club.

He continued: "Whoever comes into the club as chief executive will get our full support. But as long as Rod Petrie is still involved with the club in any capacity he will, I believe, have the ruling vote.

"Leeann Dempster has guided a club successfully for five years at Motherwell, consistently finishing at the upper end of the Premier League. She has not required someone to pull strings and guide her through - Petrie should leave altogether and let he get on with the job on her own."

The Petrie Out camp have declined to publicise their next step if Petrie does leave the club, but Kenny believes there would be no shortage of willing and capable replacements.

He added: "I know business­­ people in Edinburgh who are lifelong Hibs supporters and hugely intelligent and successful. They would do anything to help the Hibs and could change this club around in a week.

"However, it is a closed shop. Rod Petrie is the pied piper and everyone follows."

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