Hibernian: New manager Lee Johnson vows ‘aggressive, forward thinking’ style

New Hibs manager Lee Johnson was welcomed to Easter Road by club owner Ron Gordon
New Hibs manager Lee Johnson was welcomed to Easter Road by club owner Ron Gordon

New manager Lee Johnson admits “there’s a lot to do” at Hibernian as he promised to bring “aggressive, forward thinking” football to Easter Road.

The 40-year-old has signed a four-year deal with the Edinburgh club, who finished eighth after a disappointing Scottish Premiership season.

He replaces Shaun Maloney, who lasted just four months in the job.

“There’s a lot to do but I feel I can add value to the team and current squad as a coach,” said Johnson.

“Hibs slightly underachieved for various reasons – and there’s always context for that.

“But I also think there are some fantastic footballers at the club, some really good young players and we have the scope to add quality, particularly at the forward end of the pitch.”

Johnson, who has been in charge at Bristol City, Barnsley and Oldham Athletic and short playing stints at Hearts and Kilmarnock, was dismissed by Sunderland in January.

He is Hibs’ third permanent manager in six months after Jack Ross left in December, before his replacement Maloney was also removed from the post in April.

Another former Hearts player, Jamie McAllister, is expected to follow, having been a long-time assistant to Johnson.

Former captain David Gray, who had two spells as interim manager over the season, will continue as first-team coach.

Johnson added: “To have a pre-season is huge, getting to know the players, strengths and weaknesses, the partnerships, is so important. You can bed in your principals as a coach and hopefully hit the ground running.

“I want an aggressive team in terms of forward thinking. I want players to play forward and run forward, to make sure we are playing with such a tempo and a high line that we can force errors and dictate the game.

“I do like possession because I like control but not necessarily 60% – more like 52-54% – because I want us to be world class in transition and for that you need athletic players, quality and good decision makers.”

‘Johnson a really good cultural fit’

Hibs owner Ron Gordon described Johnson as “the perfect candidate” to lead a revival and aim for the “holy grail” of European football.

“Being in the group stage is an ambition that we have,” explained the American. “It doesn’t just happen. It’s difficult but I really believe that we have all the tools and now, with Lee here, the leadership we need to get there.

“He was the most experienced candidate with over 450 games as a manager.

“He had the highest winning record, scoring lots of goals. And there was a really good cultural fit in terms of the kind of football he’s going to bring: attacking, modern, front-foot football.

“I think the club is moving in a positive direction on many fronts but our instability on the management side is probably the thing I’m most disappointed in. We’ve been very diligent in our efforts to find the right candidate.

“To achieve success in any walk of life is not easy. Football is particularly difficult because you have 11 other players trying to get in your way.

“But ultimately I do think the club is heading in the right direction and we’re doing a lot of things right.

What has Johnson achieved in coaching?

Johnson was the youngest manager in the Football League when he took over at Oldham aged 31 in March 2013.

He moved on to League One rivals Barnsley two years later and 12 months on made the switch to Bristol City in the Championship, where he spent more than four years, steering the club to eighth place in 2018-19.

Following his Ashton Gate departure in July 2020, Johnson joined Sunderland in December of the same year and won the EFL Trophy in 2021 but missed out on promotion via the play-offs and was sacked in early 2022 following a 6-0 loss at Bolton, with the team sitting third in League One.

In a club statement, Gordon also spoke of the Englishman’s skills in recruitment and insisted he would be backed this summer to “put his own stamp on the squad”.

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