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Spiers on Sport: Butcher is fighting to avert disaster at Hibs

It might be a bit inane to use a Biblical analogy for Hibs, but let's do so anyway. Is this club the Job of British football? Is there any end to the suffering at Easter Road?

Terry Butcher, a manager lauded by many (this writer included) when he took over Hibs in November, is in a serious crisis. Butcher's patchy CV as a coach - good, bad and ugly - is now in real danger of another inglorious blot.

As Hibs plunge towards a dreaded relegation fight in the Scottish Premiership, Butcher's liking for war imagery has returned. Very early in his managerial career, he used battle sentiments to try to rouse his players at Coventry and Sunderland, and he's at it again with Hibs.

"We're facing eight wars now and I want players who will fight and scrap for me," Butcher said after last month's galling 3-1 defeat to Partick Thistle.

Well, since then two more "wars" have embroiled Hibs and on both occasions they were routed on the battlefield.

Butcher's team is porous in defence and blunt in attack. He says so himself. This is about as bad a double-whammy as you can get in football.

The statistics since Butcher took over Hibs make grim reading. In 21 matches he has won five, drawn seven and lost nine. More frightening still is Hibs' recent, plunging flightpath: just one win in 13 matches, and even at that, a nervous squeak against Ross County.

Hibs fans, in the main, I don't think were expecting a dramatic turnaround under Butcher this season. In fairness, next season, with his own players in place following a frantic summer ahead, will be the time to judge.

But what Hibs fans did expect under Butcher this season was impetus, some momentum: a toughened team secure in the top six and reflecting the motivating presence of the manager. It has signally not happened.

There is recent evidence, in fact, that Butcher, in threatening to drop players and bring in kids, is in some disarray in terms of knowing what his best team is.

He was criticised in some quarters for choosing the wrong team in Sunday's 2-0 reverse to Hearts at Tynecastle, with Kevin Thomson, Liam Craig and Paul Heffernan all stuck on the bench.

Indeed, Thomson's fate under Butcher has summed it all up. The 29-year-old was effectively binned the moment Butcher arrived at Easter Road, was set to be released in January, but then, in the frantic scrambling for a solution, was recalled for a game two weeks ago against St Johnstone.

Butcher is in a fog of uncertainty. He cannot currently find the right blend. Players come in, others go out, with the rancour of supporters increasingly ringing in his ears.

And while Butcher described the ludicrous decision to rule out Jordon Forster's late goal at Tynecastle as "a scandal", in fact, he didn't go overboard on the incident. The poverty of Hibs' play had been plain to all - surely most especially to the club's own manager.

As ever when Hibs suffer, some guns have also turned on Rod Petrie, the club's ever-embattled chairman.

Over the years the inscrutable Petrie has raked in money for Hibs and overseen the construction of a fine training complex south-east of Edinburgh. All of this has been impressive, in a time of austerity in the Scottish game.

But where Petrie, to some supporters, has a real reverse Midas touch is in the appointment of Hibs managers. With Colin Calderwood and Pat Fenlon both seen as abject failures, Butcher's current travails are only stoking this indignation further.

That may be unfair on both Petrie and Butcher - this Hibs gloom might suddenly disperse in the months ahead. Right now, however, both men are feeling a serious heat.

Butcher and Hibs are now facing a dire, cut-throat six weeks ahead in the battle to avoid 11th place and a relegation play-off at the foot of the Premiership. Just about as bad, given their current form, they will go into these fresh battles feeling pretty nervous.

When I went to interview a jovial Butcher back in December, he laughed out loud when I pointed out his strange mix of success and failure as a manager.

"Yep, I've had some absolute disasters!" he chortled.

Please God…not another one.

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