Back in March the club still had the chance of a top six finish and European qualification, they also still had a punt at silverware, having progressed beyond Cove Rangers (after extra time), Arbroath and 10-man Motherwell. But confidence was dwindling in the manager’s ability to deliver.
On Monday, two days after a Scottish Cup semi-final exit at the hands of Hearts ended hopes of silverware and European football, and just four months into a three-and-a-half year contract, they sacked him.
“We have been having conversations over the last month or so, looking at the trend of the club and where we were going as a football team,” explained owner and chairman Ron Gordon.
“You have to look at the body of work and I know that four months is not enough, but I think the board thought they didn’t see enough of where things were going and felt it was better to make a change and reset.
“Some people say it’s not enough time, some say we should have done it yesterday. There are valid arguments both ways. But the reality of it is that the consensus was very definitive.
“The board was very decisive in its view that we needed to make the change. That gave us the best possibility of turning things around and moving in the right direction for a variety of reasons.
“We have five important games coming up and we wanted to make sure we were in the best position to tackle that.
“By making the change we did it gives us the biggest window to prepare for next season and get a manager in time for pre-season on June 18.”
A win in the semi-final on Saturday may have bought Maloney more time but the writing was already on the wall. “I’m not so sure. It would have made the decision a little more difficult. But the truth of the matter is that the trend was not good,” said Gordon, who says that lessons must now be learned.
“We took a risk in terms of bringing Shaun in. The whole idea was to continue to improve and build and unfortunately that did not pan out.
“It was a risk and I have to take full responsibility for that. I can look at myself in the mirror.
“When you look at Shaun and his track record as a coach and pedigree, I want Hibs to be a club that is innovative and takes some risks.
“The risk for us was that it was the first professional team he had managed and as a board member said it was a tough club for this to be your first rodeo. There is a high expectation, a lot of pressure, it’s not an easy job for a first job.
“I think that Shaun gave it 150% and worked hard and was committed to succeeding and doing the best he could. Ultimately the results were not there.”
Searching for the club’s 16th manager since 2000, Gordon is looking for stability as well as success when he appoints the new incumbent. But, having dispensed with Jack Ross, who brought the club their best league finish in 16 years and delivered cup finals, for not being entertaining enough, and Maloney for not being successful enough, there is pressure to find someone capable of delivering the right formula .
In their desire for something innovative and fresh, they chose to overlook the likes of Derek McInnes, Alex Neil and Jim Goodwin, whose merits were recognized by other clubs in the interim.
But, once bitten, twice shy, identifying someone with more experience of management and of the Scottish game will feature higher in the search criteria this time.
“We need to take risks from time to time, that one was a little bit too ambitious on our part,” Gordon stated.
“It could have turned out the other way, Shaun could have done a fantastic job, we could be celebrating a terrific season.
“It didn’t pan out, that’s the beauty and challenge of football.
“We will cast our net wider in terms of recruitment of coaches and players and the kind of football we want to play. We don’t want to limit ourselves. We have a list of potentials and it has a little bit of everything, but many are from the UK.They are here, they understand the game and the dynamic, so there’s some comfort in that.
“There are some lessons to be learned, to be honest with you, big lessons. It has been a couple of years that I have been there, and I am learning as well. I want to be a really, really good chairman and steward for the club.
“I’m very happy with so many things at the club…but if you don’t get the football right, nobody really cares. So we need to get the football right.
“We want to play a modern, progressive type of football. That needs to be part of our DNA. And, we need to have a culture of winning.
“I still believe Hibs is a phenomenal opportunity for the right manager. It’s a club committed to succeeding and the right manager will see it’s a great club with an infrastructure that can deliver high end performance. But we need stability.
“The one thing I am disappointed with is that we have not got the football management right and we’ve made too many changes. I wish we had not had to make the changes we’ve made.”
They just need to make sure the next one works out because while they are judging others, they too are being judged.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.