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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 December 2007, 16:02 GMT
Bleak mid-winter for Hibs

By Julian Taylor

John Collins
Recent events at Easter Road gave Collins little to smile about
After just over a year in the job, Hibs manager John Collins has given their fans an unwanted early Christmas present by walking out of the club.

When the former Celtic and Hibernian midfielder was unveiled as the club's 27th manager in October 2006, despite having no managerial experience, it was viewed as a far-sighted move by the club.

It was popular with the Easter Road faithful, who had become accustomed to fast-paced football under his predecessor Tony Mowbray.

And he had an instant impact, as Hibs dismantled Kilmarnock in the CIS Cup Final to win their first major trophy since 1991/92.

His rotation system did not prove entirely popular with some of the players, who demanded a meeting with club chairman Rod Petrie to voice their concerns.

606: DEBATE

But Petrie stood by his man, and the row subsided.

Any hopes that they could follow up their Cup success with a decent run in the Scottish Premier League to challenge for a European place, however, soon faded.

Just a week after that League Cup final win, Hearts won at Easter Road, and Hibs' season fizzled out, with just one more league win all season, against Celtic on the final day, as they ended the 2006/07 season in sixth place.

Happier times for Collins at Hibs with the CIS Insurance Cup
Happier times for Collins at Hibs with the CIS Insurance Cup

Hibs' scorers that day were Scott Brown and Ivan Sproule, Scotland and Northern Ireland international players respectively - and their exits from Easter Road shortly afterwards may have had an impact on Collins' decision to quit.

Sproule moved to English side Bristol City and even the fact that Hibs received a record fee for a transfer between two Scottish clubs - 4.4m when Brown went to Celtic - cannot have lessened the pain at losing him.

Hibs had been hoping of a Cup double at one point in the season, but that ended in a lukewarm semi-final loss to relegated Dunfermline Athletic, which is sure to have frustrated such a perfectionist manager.

Club captain Kevin Thomson was stripped of the armband when news of Rangers' interest in the player emerged, but it was not enough to keep him at the club, and he duly made his way to Ibrox.

The decisive - some might say hardline - nature of the way Collins handled that case was in contrast to the more paternal figure of Mowbray.

Steven Whittaker and Chris Killen were the next Hibs players to depart for Rangers and Celtic, but despite all the money brought in by these transfers, Collins' summer signings were of a much more frugal nature.

While former Hibs players departed to play in the Champions League, players such as York City striker Clayton Donaldson, Millwall winger Filipe Morais and Brian Kerr of Motherwell came in.

At first, the signs were encouraging.

A 1-0 win at Hearts on the opening day of the 2007-08 season kick-started a nine-game unbeaten run, including victories over both Old Firm teams.

Hibernian striker Steven Fletcher
The absence of Steven Fletcher was a blow to Collins

But just as fans were starting to feel optimistic, the CIS Cup holders were dumped out of the tournament, going down 4-2 at home to Motherwell.

So, why has Collins now decided to leave the club for which he has such affection?

With money invested in the new club training academy, January's transfer budget will be minimal, at best.

And after the promising start to the season, things have tailed off, with losses to Inverness, Aberdeen and St Mirren on the charge sheet.

The news that Steven Fletcher is out for up to two months with ankle ligament damage will also have dismayed Collins.

So, with little to spend, the 58-times capped Scotland international has elected to take his talents elsewhere.

His likely destination? Perhaps to struggling Fulham, where he starred in the twilight of his playing career, or even the Scotland job.

Collins' appearance at the recent opening of the lavish new training complex now appears rather ironic, given that the club will have to look to the future without their bright young manager.

One thing is for certain. This forward thinking - if very demanding - boss will not have to be looking at the situations vacant column for very long.



SEE ALSO
Collins resigns as Hibs manager
20 Dec 07 |  Hibernian
Collins glad to end 16-year wait
18 Mar 07 |  Hibernian
Collins gets support from Brown
11 Apr 07 |  Hibernian


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