As I mentioned yesterday things are happening in the Highlands- I bring you the first of them today.
After several days of denials, equivocations, and general awkwardness Inverness Caledonian Thistle F.C. have announced today that they have given their manager, Terry Butcher, permission to talk to Hibernian F.C. about their managerial vacancy.
Since taking over the Inverness side in 2009 Butcher has returned the side to the top flight and steadily improved the side to the point where they are currently only a single point out of second place in the Scottish Premiership. While generally well-regard in the Scottish game- he has always had kind words for Highland Derby rivals Ross County F.C.- there has been uneasiness in some quarters in recent months at the way in which Butcher has built his side. A England legend as a player, Butcher has used his stature in the game and the connections he made while coaching in England to fill ICTFC’s roster with cheap talent (some might simply call that “value”) from England’s lower leagues. The proof has certainly been in the pudding, but some are less than happy that said “pudding” routinely includes only two Scottish-born players. This might be par for the course at bigger, more established Premiership clubs, but at ICTFC- and it should be said, at Ross County as well- it has been seen as not a little unseemly given that Caley rose to the top on the back of these very, apparently unfashionable, Scottish-born players.
The other issue surrounding these events is what it reveals about the changing nature of Scottish football, or perhaps the way Scottish football should be changing. Under the old order, this move would make sense for Butcher- he trades a low-profile club with limited resources in the relative hinterlands of the country for a club with more money, a bigger name, and located in one of the country’s two biggest cities. In the past, this would have been a no-brainer. But now? Caley are higher in the table, the club and supporters have been so happy with his tenure that he can pretty much do as he pleases, and Inverness, while no Edinburgh, is actually a thriving city of 60,000 people set in one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. Why would he leave?
Butcher will take the job (it was reported that he’d already agreed to personal terms with Hibs before Caley gave official permission for the talks to begin) because if he can pull off the same thing at Easter Road he will become a legend in a second company. Hibernian have a long history, a newly-renovated ground, great supporters, but they have not topped the league since 1952 and they haven’t won the Scottish Cup since 1902. If Butcher can achieve either of those (and with Rangers still in the lower divisions the time has never been better to knock Celtic of their perch), start beating Hearts in the derby, and get this club back into Europe (especially the Champions League) it will change the fortunes of the club in terms of both prestige and finances and it will shower him in personal glory.
…and, now ICTFC are going to have to look for a new manager in the middle of the season!