Keane, who led Sunderland out of the Championship into the Premier League and also managed Ipswich Town before becoming Martin O’Neill’s assistant manager for five years with the Republic of Ireland, has been installed as the bookmakers' early favourite to succeed his former Celtic teammate, Shaun Maloney, in the Easter Road hotseat.
understands that while Keane’s box office appeal may boost the Scottish club’s season ticket sales and his ambition to return to management still burns strong, the former Ireland and Manchester United captain has no desire to take the helm at Hibs.
Meanwhile, the club's American owner Ron Gordon had to defend his son Ian’s position as Hibs’ head of recruitment last week having sacked Maloney only four months after the ex-Scotland international gave up his role as assistant manager at Belgium, the No.1 team in international football, to accept the Hibs job.
“I get why people ask the question whether Ian is the right guy for that job, I get it because he’s my son,” Gordon said.
“Personally, I think he’s doing a terrific job but it’s not just Ian, it’s the recruitment department. I think there are six people involved in recruitment. Ian is just the co-ordinator.
“He manages a group of people who are out there scouting and looking at potential recruits. He does the background work, he doesn’t make the decisions on who comes in.
“That is done by the manager…. there is a group of us who are involved in the decisions. It’s not Ian.
“Ian is the one that goes out and makes sure they are available, that they fit the profile we are looking for, that the manager is looking for, that it’s a development investment, that we can afford them. That’s the work the recruitment department does.
“It’s not the director of recruitment who decides who comes. It’s not an executive function at the club.
“I see the work they are doing, because I am looking at all the players they are evaluating. Shaun was very involved in this, as was Jack (Ross). It’s not like the recruitment goes and does its own thing. It doesn’t work like that.”
Former Hibs manager Neil Lennon, another ex-teammate of Keane at Celtic, went on to cast doubt on how many of the club’s signings in the January transfer window were Maloney’s.
“What chance did Shaun have? Four months doesn’t give a manager any time to put his stamp on a club, get his own players in and implement his own style,” Lennon insisted. “I’m not convinced that all the players they brought in were Shaun’s choices.”
Hibs CEO Ben Kensell, who has presided over two managerial sackings in the nine months since his arrival from yo-yo club Norwich City, offered up these comments on the managerment structure at Hibs in February.
“Shaun makes the final decision on any player who comes into the club”. But his position had changed when he spoke subsequently on a supporters’ podcast,” he said.
“It’s very simple, a transfer isn’t dictated by one person and no one person at this football club makes a final decision on anything,” Kensell said. “What you have to bear in mind is that Shaun will have a view, Ian will have a view and our owner, Ron, will have a view. By virtue of that, it is a committee because it’s a decision by committee.”
Keane is unlikely to want to to work under such restrictions and ambiguous circumstances and reports suggested he rejected the chance to return as Sunderland manager earlier this year for similar reasons.
He is also likely to have noted the £3million sale of Martin Boyle, Hibs’ top goalscorer, to Saudi club Al-Faisaly, with no replacement coming in before the close of the January window despite an initial bid reported to have been made in December, prior to Maloney’s appointment.
Ian Gordon and Kensell are understood to be in England speaking to potential candidates for their managerial vacancy this week.
Keane, unmoved by the vacancy in Edinburgh and content for now pursuing his career in punditry, will not be one of them.