BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
NEIL LENNON has joked that Leeann Dempster can handle anything after taming him, as the Hibernian head coach delivered a ringing endorsement of her credentials as a prospective chief executive of the Scottish Football Association.
Dempster, who has excelled as CEO at Motherwell and Hibernian following a spell in the aviation industry with Zoom Airlines, has emerged as the front-runner for the top job at Hampden following the resignation of Stewart Regan on Wednesday afternoon.
Easter Road head coach Lennon would be loathe to lose the woman who has utterly transformed Hibs since arriving in the summer of 2014 against a backdrop of supporter protests aimed at the chairman Rod Petrie following a chastening relegation to the Championship. Nevertheless, he understands the appeal.
The capture of the Holy Grail, in the form of the Scottish Cup in 2016, and a return to the top-flight followed her appointment, the hiring of Alan Stubbs and Lennon were shrewd calls, while behind the scenes the club is unrecognisable, from academy to boardroom.
“She would make a very good chief executive of the SFA,” said Lennon. “She made a very good chief executive at Motherwell and she has been an excellent chief executive at Hibernian. I don’t want her to go, obviously, as I have a very good professional relationship with her but I can understand why her name has cropped up.
“She is smart, bright and forward-thinking and she doesn’t suffer fools gladly – and she can handle me!
“We have an understanding, she doesn’t come in and tell me who to play or what formation to play. But she does tell me the direction she wants to take the club, the structure of the club and the way it is set up and she has been very successful.
“She has made things very comfortable for me. She takes a lot on board and seems to handle it very, very well. The club has been a success more or less since she has come in and Motherwell were a big success when she was there. I think she is well thought of within the game.”
Regan’s departure leaves a void at the top of Scottish football, with no chief executive, no manager and uncertainty regarding whether Hampden or Murrayfield will host matches in the future.
Lennon himself has been linked with the vacant managerial role – adding another layer of intrigue to suggestions Dempster could be the new CEO – but concedes that he is staggered to see Scottish football in such a directionless state.
“There is a huge vacuum at the SFA and I think it is incredible,” he said candidly. “In this day and age, with the way football is run, to have a national team with no manager and no chief executive – I find that unbelievable.
“I do wonder what is going on behind the scenes. I find it very strange. Very strange.”