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'Petrie Out' campaigners call on Hibernian fans to support rally

Paul Kane yesterday emerged as the passionate figurehead of a "Petrie Out" campaign that was launched as the demoralising depth of despair over Hibernian's relegation from the SPFL Premiership came to a head.

Mike Reilly, chairman of the Hibernian Supporters' Club, left, and former Hibs player Paul Kane
Mike Reilly, chairman of the Hibernian Supporters' Club, left, and former Hibs player Paul Kane

The one-time fans' favourite was joined by Hibernian Supporters' Association chairman Mike Riley and Kenny McLean Jr, head of Hands Off Hibs, as they fervently attacked Rod Petrie's stewardship of the club.

The trio had met with Petrie 24 hours earlier to call for his removal, only to be told the embattled 58-year-old chairman would not be quitting, but Kane and his group are adamant he has to walk away and "sever all ties with the club".

Representatives from around 15 different fans' groups attended yesterday's meeting to show their backing for the movement, with McLean, son of the former Hibs vice-chairman, claiming club legend Pat Stanton had phoned to give the campaign his "100%" approval.

The group want as many fans as possible to descend on Easter Road next Saturday at 11.30am for a rally timed to coincide with a planned meeting between supporters in the Working Together umbrella body and new chief executive Leeann Dempster, who officially joins the club from Motherwell tomorrow.

Campaigners have stressed they are not calling on fans to "starve the club" financially by withholding season-ticket money, insisting that would be a decision for individuals to take. However, they are urging supporters to display the strength of their opposition to Petrie by repeating the passion of the Hands Off Hibs movement that prevented then Hearts chairman Wallace Mercer from succeeding with a takeover bid for the club 24 years ago.

Kane said: "I don't know how he [Petrie] will respond, but one thing is for sure: with the emotions that were shown here today we will get what we want. It's now up to the supporters to decide what they want. We need the spirit of Hands Off Hibs to come back. The more supporters we have there [on Saturday], the stronger the case we have."

Kane insists the move to drive out Petrie should be regarded as "business" and not personal. The 48-year-old former Hibs midfielder, said: "We want this campaign to be dignified. We'd rather we weren't here and the decision was taken out of our hands, but we are here and we have to go ahead with it.

"But we don't want personal attacks or [Petrie's] family brought into it or anything like that. We respect Hibs, we respect the board, but this is a business decision, it is not a personal attack on Rod Petrie.

"He has run his time, the supporters here agree and now we need to take that to a wider audience and see if they feel the same. If they do, then I think he has to go, 100%."

Petrie has already stressed he is "relinquishing all executive responsibility for the running of the club" by handing the reins to Dempster, but insists he is needed to "facilitate the positive changes which the board believes supporters will welcome".

The SFA vice-president can boast of presiding over the redevelopment of Easter Road stadium and the building of a state-of-the-art training ground, while at the same time keeping a tight rein on the club's finances.

But Charlie Reid, one half of The Proclaimers, whose Sunshine on Leith has been adopted as a Hibs anthem, is clear that Petrie must be blamed for the club's on-field decline in recent seasons.

Speaking after the meeting in the Hibernian Supporters' Association club, he said: "For all the good that's been done in terms of spending on infrastructure, the stadium and the training facility, which was the correct thing to do, they have taken their eye off the ball in terms of the quality of football player.

"Whatever you think of Petrie or the management team, it's the declining quality of football player that has ultimately led us to relegation. In the last 15 years or so, there have been a lot of good things happening at the club, but they've tried to run the playing staff on the cheap.

"Rod Petrie's been the top man for a very long time, so if you're going to take the plaudits for the new stadium, you have to take the brickbats for what's gone wrong on the pitch."

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