Lee Johnson is hoping to remain at Hibernian “for the long haul” after coming through a roller-coaster first year as manager with his team firmly in contention to qualify for Europe.
The 41-year-old former Bristol City and Sunderland boss has the Edinburgh club fifth in the Premiership, just a point off fourth place, with three games of his maiden campaign in charge remaining.
Johnson has had to deal with a dire run of injuries to key players, a major overhaul of the recruitment structure, and some patchy runs of form, as well as the death of owner Ron Gordon in February.
However, he is relishing his role at Easter Road and is eager to oversee sustained improvement in the coming years.
“I would love to be here for the long haul,” Johnson said on Friday, the first anniversary of his appointment. “I think it’s a brilliant club. The staff are fantastic, I like the dynamic at Easter Road and HTC (Hibs Training Centre).
“I feel like we’ve still got a lot to do, we’re not finished. A lot of that is finance permitting but success on the pitch brings greater finance and the great thing about this club is that there’s no money ever being taken out.
“It all replenishes and goes back into the right places for the good of the club in the long term. And I am a long-term manager. I’m not one of those that comes in as a quick firefighter and then I’m gone.
“I feel like sustained progression is very important for the long-term future of the club and that’s how I try and perform as a manager, by making the right decisions on a daily basis for the short, medium and long term.”
Asked for his reflections on his first year at Hibs, Johnson said: “There’s probably a book in there, or certainly a chapter. I think we’re progressing, I genuinely do.
“It was a more difficult job than I anticipated looking at it from afar. When you’re then in the building you see there are a lot of good people but a lot of systems and processes that needed to improve.
“We talked a lot about our recruitment (previously) but I think that’s in a good place, well funded, well organised, well structured with good personnel. Recruitment is massive.
“The facilities are great but we’ve just spent £1 million on the pitches at Easter Road and at the training ground. And we’ve got progression in terms of making the top six and scoring more goals.
“Plus, we’ve had a very difficult season in terms of having our money on the pitch and having key players available. Overall, we’ve got ourselves in a position where we can deliver a form of success if we have a good six days next week.
“We’ve got the opportunity to qualify for Europe. I’d love it to have been in third, although that’s a real long shot. Fourth isn’t unrealistic, and fifth – if you’re a betting man – has a good chance, even though there’s a lot to do. We know Celtic have got to do the fifth-place team a favour (by beating Inverness in the Scottish Cup final), therefore we need to go and try to stake a claim for fourth place.”
Hibs have been linked with Wales international midfielder Jonny Williams, who is a free agent after leaving Swindon.
“Jonny’s one that’s out of contract so would naturally come into a club our size’s consideration but at the same time there are so many factors,” said Johnson. “Every player that’s out of contract, including our own, go into that pot of potential availability, and then the player’s got to be affordable, accessible and available.”
Meanwhile, former Blackburn boss Steve Kean has left his role as Hibs’ academy director to become manager of Georgian side Torpedo Kutaisi.
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