LEEANN DEMPSTER, the Hibernian chief executive, is adamant she knew within a minute that Jack Ross was the right man to ensure the Easter Road club are at the vanguard of a new era in European football.

Ross has described the recruitment process as “rigorous” and joked that it is “not easy to get the Hibs job” after lengthy interviews and a thorough, data-driven analysis of his previous work with Alloa, St Mirren and Sunderland. However, Dempster did not shun the old-fashioned instincts cultivated during her years in media, communications and football – and everything tells her she has snared the perfect man for the job.

“There’s an element where you know if you can work with somebody,” said Dempster. “You build an understanding and trust with a person fairly quickly. That’s really important.

“When I worked in the media, I was told you knew who you could work with and go into business with in about 60 seconds. I still think that’s true. You really get a sense of an individual when you have proper conversations with them and, with Jack, it’s been all positive.


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“I’m excited to work with him. He’s got lots of qualities that he’ll bring to the club. I know he’s desperate to get down to the training centre and coach. He wants to be part of this club. That’s the most exciting thing at this moment in time. He fits us and we fit him.

“He was an early candidate because of his availability but I think it’s right that he’s come through that process as he is an outstanding candidate. We were lucky he was available to us.”

Allied with the unprecedented scenario of both Edinburgh clubs searching for a new manager simultaneously, Ross was among the favourites for both posts.

“That didn’t drive our timeline or determination,” she continued. “It takes as long as it takes and weren’t trying to get to the finishing line before anyone else.”

Addressing reports that Hibs made a concerted effort to recruit Celtic coach John Kennedy, Dempster added: “Lots of names were put to us. We’ve never commented on those. We had a wide and varied number of conversations, but we only spoke with a couple of people in earnest.”

While Hibs may currently be toiling in a rather uninspiring eighth place in the Premiership, they are just 10 points shy of the fourth spot that Ross stated should be the minimum expectation of the capital club.

That European aspiration is echoed by Dempster. Unprompted, she cites the forthcoming Europa Conference League – a third UEFA club competition – as a lucrative pathway for Scottish clubs to enjoy more matches on the continent, and she believes Hibs must be ready to participate when it launches in 2021/22.


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“We talk about the big-club mentality,” Dempster adds. “Jack has been at Sunderland which is a massive club, so he understands the expectations here.

“We’re a capital-city club with massive rivals, great opportunities and we want to be better.

“We want to be ready for the new European competition [Europa Conference League]. People talk about that as if it’s 100 years away but it’s not. That competition – and the opportunity it gives us and other clubs in Scotland – is what we want. When it happens, we want to be ready to take advantage of it.

“A club like Hibernian, with the fan base and the financial capacity it has, must have that aspiration.

“European competition is a game changer, irrespective of what part of the competition you get into.”

Dempster’s positivity and lofty goals have evidently not been cowed by a challenging 2019. It seems like a lifetime ago that Hibs were beginning the calendar year with Neil Lennon at the helm.

Since then, the Northern Irishman has departed, Paul Heckingbottom has come and gone in the space of seven months, and Jack Ross has arrived. Progress on the pitch has been minimal. Indeed, a strong argument can be made that regression has taken place. However, Dempster firmly believes the club remain in a strong position and has a hearty distain for hindsight.

“I still think there has been progress at the club,” she hit back. “If you work in football it does come in peaks and troughs. You don’t win all the time. We are in a situation where we’ve had three head coaches in a calendar year. That’s obviously not a position any club wants to be in.

“We obviously didn’t hire someone [Heckingbottom] with the intention of him leaving in less than a year. That’s unfortunately the situation we found ourselves in.”