For the first time since taking over from Rod Petrie in the summer of 2014, Leeann Dempster has the pressure on her.
Yes, she had to take over a club that had just been relegated into the most difficult second tier in Scottish football history, and yes, she had to deal with Butcher. But it is often easy to make your mark on a job when it is a shambles in the first place. Even small and straight forward decisions can have a big impact and show the new boss in a positive light. Much more difficult is to maintain high-standards, and that is the challenge that she now has.
None of this is to say that Leeann Dempster has done a bad job, or has had it easy; quite the opposite in fact. But her success thus far creates the difficulties that she now faces; how to replace top players? How to sustain the ‘feel-good’ factor of the last few years? How to deal with a Manager whose volatility is becoming more of a problem and is impacting performances? None of these are easy problems to solve.
However, it is perfectly clear that something needs to change; a bottom-six finish would not be acceptable from this season, and if that was to happen (by no means certain, of course) then either the manager is culpable for not getting enough out of this team, the recruitment team is culpable for identifying poor players, or the board is culpable for not providing the necessary backing.
Hibernian supporters have backed the club in enormous numbers, and the virtuous circle of continuous improvement on the pitch being matched by continuous growth off the pitch has to be maintained. That either means having a manager who can consistently get his team to perform to a level greater than the sum of its parts (debatably any of Aberdeen, Kilmarnock, Livingston, St Johnstone, or even Hearts), or it means signing the players required to take Hibs back up to that level; and if that means spending money, then that is what has to happen.
Hibs fans have put up with a lot in the last few years, when prioritising infrastructure over the team was the club’s strategy which led to steady decline followed by a sudden collapse. A bottom-six finish is not a disaster of Butcher proportions, but it is a notable decline in on-field standards that will almost certainly be reflected in off-field support. And it is Leeann Dempster’s job to stop it from happening.
Lifting Hibs off their knees was the easy part; keeping the club standing tall could well be tougher.