THERE were valid reasons for Hibernian bringing in both Lee Johnson and his predecessor Shaun Maloney as manager even though their tenures ultimately ended in disappointment and failure after just 15 months and four months respectively.

Maloney might never have been a head coach when he succeeded Jack Ross towards the end of 2021. But he was a big name, was young, ambitious and articulate and had spent over two years as the assistant of the Belgium national team.

Johnson, meanwhile, arrived with an impressive curriculum vitae. The Englishman had been plying his trade at a decent level for nearly a decade in his homeland with Oldham Athletic, Barnsley, Bristol City and Sunderland. He had led the latter to their first ever EFL Trophy triumph at Wembley.

Yet, there was a distinct feeling with each appointment that the Easter Road hierarchy had taken something of a gamble rather than go for the sensible and safe option.

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That is a mistake which they cannot, as they start the search for someone to take charge in Leith for the third time in under two years, afford to make again.

Hibs, who sacked Johnson on Sunday after losing their third cinch Premiership match of the new season, have been linked with Scott Brown, Chris Wilder, Marty Cifuentes, John Kennedy, Oscar Garcia and Mark Warburton in the past couple of days.

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They desperately need to bring in an experienced manager with a proven track record in the Scottish game who can make them competitive in the top flight once again, haul them up the league table and take them on extended runs in the domestic cup competitions.

Fortunately for chief executive Ben Kensell and his colleagues, there is no shortage of quality candidates for them to choose from right on their doorstep.

Neil Lennon, who led the capital outfit to the Championship title, fourth place in the Premiership and into the Europa League qualifying rounds during the two-and-a-half years which he spent in the dugout, is available for free having parted company with Omonia in Cyprus last year.

It is doubtful that Hibs – who have conceded no fewer than 20 goals in their last nine competitive outings – would be so porous at the back with the formidable Northern Irishman at the helm.

Lennon left in bizarre circumstances in 2019; he and his assistant Garry Parker were suspended days before a club statement was issued declaring the pair had departed by mutual consent and had not been guilty of any misconduct.

Would any lingering ill-feeling between the two parties over the strange episode prove problematic? It is unlikely given their current predicament. The Celtic great is the sort of who could lift Hibs on and off the park with his personality and presence.

Lennon is, though, far from the only option. His compatriot Stephen Robinson has done an outstanding job with limited funds at St Mirren. His side were only denied a third straight Premiership victory and top spot by an Aberdeen penalty in the 10th minute of injury-time at the SMISA Stadium on Sunday.

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Robinson’s men are everything that Johnson’s charges are not at the moment. They are combative, difficult to beat, hard-working and streetwise. On top of that, as was witnessed once again at the weekend, they can play some attractive and attacking football at times.

The former Oldham and Motherwell manager would doubtless be open to an approach from Hibs and the opportunity to work with a far bigger budget and calibre of footballer than he previously has in his career.

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Would Derek McInnes be tempted away from Kilmarnock? The team he led to the Championship last year endured a difficult return to the Premiership last term and narrowly avoided finishing second bottom and getting sucked into the play-offs. However, this season they have beaten Rangers in the league and knocked Celtic out of the Viaplay Cup.

Would McInnes walk away from the exciting team he has built just when they are coming good and the future is looking so bright? The former St Johnstone, Bristol City and Aberdeen manager could well be enticed by Hibs’ superior potential. He would certainly not be fazed by the size and expectations of the Easter Road club after eight years at Pittodrie.

Neither would Malky Mackay. The Scot has worked wonders with Ross County and has previously operated at a rarified level down south with Watford, Cardiff City and Wigan. Targeting him would also be a shrewd move.  

Robinson, McInnes and Mackay would cost compensation. But well in excess of £1.5m has been spent signing the likes of Riley Harbottle, Dylan Levitt, Dylan Vente, Jojo Wollacott and Elie Youan in a bid to bring success to Leith this season. Hibs would do well to speculate to accumulate and appoint an individual who can give them real bang for their buck.