If ever a sacking had both a sense of inevitability but also an element of shock then it was Shaun Maloney’s Hibs dismissal on Tuesday.
The 39-year-old had grand plans for his Easter Road revamp but there was a growing sense he was unable to translate his coaching methods from page to pitch.
The former Celtic star earned a burgeoning reputation due to his work with Roberto Martinez at Belgium but six wins in 19 games proved costly.
His case wasn’t helped by consecutive defeats to Hearts, despite the rousing second half against the Jambos during the 2-1 defeat in Saturday’s Scottish Cup Final.
Hibs owner Ron Gordon is nothing if not ambitious but he will be keenly aware that ditching both Jack Ross and Maloney within four months isn’t a great look.
But what comes next?
The decision to place David Gray in temporary charge until the end of the season allows some wiggle room.
RecordSport runs the rule over eight names who could fit the profile to be named the next manager of Hibs.
Scott Brown (free agent)
An emotional return to Leith for Brown would excite but some will argue he carries a similar profile to man who has just been axed.
However, backers of the iconic Celtic captain would be quick to argue that his tigerish approach is different from Maloney’s methods which were heavy on tactics.
Brown’s stint as No.2 to Stephen Glass at Aberdeen was cut short but the former Scotland skipper appears hell-bent on forging a career as a coach.
Would it be a risk for Hibs? Yes, but there is a belief among those who know Broonie best that he is made for a long career in the dugout.
Kjetil Knutsen (Bodo Glimt)
The Bodo/Glimt boss has knocked back a host of approaches, including one from Aberdeen before they decided on Jim Goodwin to succeed Glass.
The 52-year-old may be destined for a top league after his Roy of the Rovers work in the Artic Circle, however, the Norwegian is razor sharp and will likely plot his next move meticulously.
Would he view Hibs, backed by an ambitious if trigger happy owner, as the perfect club to reignite?
It would be a hard sell, of course, but Gordon’s blue sky thinking is nothing if not forward thinking as he aims to spearhead a new era at Easter Road.
Ronny Deila (NYFC)
Celtic connections have been a regular route for Hibs in recent years and landing the man who is basking in the glow of MLS Cup glory last season is a hot commodity.
History has been kind to his Celtic tenure with supporters in Glasgow’s east end never in any doubt of the stand-up qualities displayed by their former boss.
Deila is a serious operator who has won league titles in three countries, and he also strives to produce a brand of football that gets fans onside.
Bob Bradley (Toronto F.C.)
Owner Gordon and son Ian have connections in North America but would a move for the former United States boss be possible?
He didn’t thrill at Swansea City but the poker-faced 64-year-old boasts an enviable CV. However, tempting away from Toronto would likely prove tough.
He’s the head coach but also double up at sporting director as he enjoys a level of control most managers can only dream of.
But he’s regarded as the standard bearer of American coaching and would likely feel he has unfinished business in British football.
Kevin Thomson (Kelty Hearts)
Could Thomson and Brown form a double act like they did in their playing careers?
You can’t rule anything out but both are fiercely ambitious and despite their long-term friendship, they both likely see themselves as a No.1 rather than an assistant.
Thomson has made clear his intentions to go the very top and he earned glowing reviews from within the Rangers academy before succeeding Barry Ferguson at Kelty.
He interviewed for the Kilmarnock vacancy before Derek McInnes was appointed.
And he has only added to the hype by guiding the former Lowland League side to League Two title glory at the first time of asking.
Sabri Lamouchi (free agent)
You always need a wildcard and Lamouchi battled against the tide at Nottingham Forest before finally being axed in October 2020 despite flickers of success.
He has previously managed the Ivory Coast and Rennes, as well as in Qatar during a nomadic career that has led him to gain a reputation as a capable operator.
Not a name who will be among the favorites but the 50-year-old brings a wealth of experience. And Hibs may prioritize just that.
John Kennedy (Celtic assistant)
Kennedy has long been admired within Easter Road and he will likely earn the chance to become his own man in the coming years after his extensive Celtic apprenticeship.
The 39-year-old has served as a trusted lieutenant to Deila, Brendan Rodgers, Neil Lennon and Ange Postecoglou during his time in Glasgow’s east end.
But he looks likely to stick around with Celtic ahead of a potential Champions League tilt next season. He plays a key role at Parkhead after impressing the Australian this season.
And another key factor to consider, he is close friends with Maloney and would be unlikely to step into the shoes over a man he has known since their days in the Celtic academy.
David Martindale (Livingston)
Two simple words, why not?
The Livingston boss’ redemption arc has been celebrated but the man who has transformed the Lions is more than a feel good story.
He has a knack of reinventing his squad, with the type of the under radar signings Gordon and chief executive Ben Kensell will appreciate.
Martindale have proven capable of winning in multiple ways and he was seconds away from securing a second consecutive top six finish.
A name that deserves recognition.