What price a manager’s contract?


terrybutcher1So, farewell Terry Butcher. Hibernian have paid a fee to Inverness Caledonian Thistle to take their manager, less than six months from the end of his contract. Butcher, for his part, leaves a team in second position and in the semi final of a national cup for a team in seventh and with little expectation of silverware.

As I have written elsewhere, on the face of things it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Butcher, an intelligent and gregarious man, was as close to a legend as Inverness have had in their brief history.

He was popular with both Inverness and Ross County fans, and was something of a local celebrity, famously donning an apron and smearing blue ice cream all over his face for a story, presumably, about blue ice cream in the local paper.

His post departure comments have, as expected, been interpreted as a slight on his former club and their lack of facilities. In reality, they were nothing of the sort. Hibernian’s facilities do rank with the best in the division, and Inverness’ do not. This is a statement of fact, and, to take Terry at his word, which I am inclined to do, a significant motivating factor. But at the same time, so too were the increased playing budget, the higher profile media coverage, the greater community establishment and, if not currently, the possibility of working with much better players.

Terry Butcher will be a huge loss to Inverness, and the area as a whole. His departure makes clear once again the perfunctory nature of a manager’s contract.

derekadams-actionplus1Derek Adams, the equally talented but slightly less superficially amiable Ross County manager has been linked, mainly through the bookmakers, with a switch to the Highland capital. If I was a fan of Inverness, I can think of far worse appointments, but it will not happen. Derek Adams will be the next manager of Motherwell. I would put money on that. But it will not be for a while yet.

Inverness is not a step up from Ross County and at any rate, if Butcher was so appalled by the lack of training facilities to work with as a manager, Adams is hardly likely to throw away the opportunity at Ross County’s impressive football academy and Jubilee pitches which are but a stone’s throw from the Global Energy Stadium. And perhaps most of all, this season represents
very much a work unfinished for Del Boy.

But odder things have happened, as we have seen this week. Ross County will always lose their best players and coaches to bigger clubs. Adams tried the number two job, briefly, and hated it.

That is one thing to give hope. Derek Adams is a better coach than Colin Calderwood, and well he knows it. Derek Adams also turned down the Aberdeen job. From Ross County to Aberdeen is no less of a step than Inverness to Hibs.

Perhaps, in future, we will need to be more realistic in our expectations of our club’s manager. As County fans, the most we can really expect from players is three or four years of service. Any more than that, such as with Scott Boyd or Ritchie Brittain, is the exception which proves the rule.

Managers may, in future, come and go as they please. Seemingly the transfer windows which hold players to their clubs for swathes of the year do not apply to the coaches. That is an issue which the authorities seem content to leave well alone. And so it will continue. Ross County and Inverness – and everyone bar Celtic – will be breeding grounds for managers, and promptly lose them to the bright lights.

It could easily be argued that any one manager is more important to his club than any one player. Yet clubs are restrained from cashing in on their players by the transfer window. Were Inverness to lose Billy McKay, they could replace him with a not too much disruption. Terry Butcher’s departure, along with his assistant and chief scout, pretty much stuffs the team for the next fortnight. Hibs will now have a deep knowledge of ICT’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s far from sure that the compensation package Hibs have paid will go much of the way to helping Inverness pay for the ongoing recruitment process, especially if they intend to give the job to the likes of Walter Zenga or Stuart Baxter, whose relocation costs will not be nominal.

The sense of happiness one feels at the disruption of one’s local rivals masks the fact that this same disruption is only one approach away. Had Hibs approached Ross County, I’m pretty confident Derek Adams would have turned them down. But Motherwell is a different matter. And come that day, I can only hope the decision comes in the off-season, and that Terry Butcher’s back room staff are prepared to relocate north.


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