Hibernian are looking for what will be their sixth manager in less than five years after sacking Lee Johnson.
Hibs confirmed Johnson had departed less than 24 hours after a 3-2 home defeat by Livingston meant they had lost their opening three cinch Premiership matches.
Chief executive Ben Kensell said on the Hibernian website: “The club has taken the tough decision to relieve Lee Johnson of his duties following a disappointing start to the domestic campaign.
“We wish Lee and his coaching staff all the best for the future and thank them for their efforts.”
Hibs confirmed that coaches Jamie McAllister and Adam Owen had also left with immediate effect.
Hibernian FC can confirm that that Lee Johnson has departed the Club as First Team Manager.
— Hibernian Football Club (@HibernianFC) August 27, 2023
The change comes ahead of Thursday’s Europa Conference League play-off second leg against Aston Villa with Hibs 5-0 down from the first leg.
Former skipper David Gray will assume caretaker charge for the “immediate future”, for the third time since December 2021, and will be supported by Stuart Garden.
Johnson twice survived four-game losing streaks and poor cup form in his first season at Easter Road before finally leading Hibs to fifth place and a spot in the Conference League qualifiers.
Hibs have had highs and lows in Europe this season with travelling fans venting their fury in Andorra following a first-leg defeat by Inter d’Escaldes before the Leith side won 6-1 at home.
Victory over Luzern in the third qualifying round was followed by a Viaplay Cup triumph against Raith Rovers, but then came defeats against Villa and Livi.
After earlier league losses against St Mirren and Motherwell, Hibs were left alone on zero points at the foot of the table.
Johnson acknowledged that he was under pressure immediately after Saturday’s Easter Road defeat against a Livingston side who had not scored in their previous nine Premiership away games.
The former Bristol City and Sunderland manager said: “I genuinely do apologise because I didn’t want to start like this.
“I was full of beans – I still am – going into the season and this has caught us out a little bit.
“I hope they (the board) stick with me, I really do, because I want to be here. I’d never throw the towel in.
“And I understand there will be fans calling for my head. But I genuinely believe that we’ll do it. I think we’ve got a good squad, I think we’ve had a few issues – and we’ve got to tidy up our defensive stuff.
“It’s unacceptable, I understand that. I’m okay to take responsibility for that knowing I still have belief in the squad.
“I’m disappointed because I love it here and I believe in us. But at the same time I’ve experienced this before in my career.”
Girls don't like boys… Girls like Mo Sangare. pic.twitter.com/pigexMVDvN
— Livingston Football Club (@LiviFCOfficial) August 26, 2023
Hibs were behind for the vast majority of the game with Jordan Obita scoring an early own goal before Martin Boyle levelled. Bruce Anderson headed Livi back in front and Mo Sangare’s wonder striker made it 3-1 before Josh Campbell pulled on back late on.
Johnson said: “We will turn it. The season and the league settles down when it becomes week to week.
“I hope that when we do turn it around, and we will, that those fans accept that and come back onside.
“That’s all I ask, humbly, and I accept the criticism and responsibility but I want to do very well for this football club and we’re pushing it in all directions.”
Johnson lasted slightly longer than his immediate three predecessors – Paul Heckingbottom, Jack Ross and Shaun Maloney – with Hibs looking for stability they last had when Neil Lennon spent two-and-a-half years in the hotseat.