Hibs boss Neil Lennon ‘picked his moment’ to read riot act

Neil Lennon barks orders from the Raith touchline alongside assistant Garry Parker
Neil Lennon barks orders from the Raith touchline alongside assistant Garry Parker
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Managerial rants are an intrinsic part of football, often entertaining to those watching but not so much fun for those on the receiving end.

Hibs head coach Neil Lennon laid into his players on Saturday after watching his team draw 1-1 with Raith Rovers and miss the opportunity to open up a nine-point lead at the top of the Championship table.

Bertie Auld enjoys a light moment at Easter Road. The Hibs players also felt his wrath at times

Bertie Auld enjoys a light moment at Easter Road. The Hibs players also felt his wrath at times

Lennon branded his charges a “disgrace” while describing their performance in Kirkcaldy as “insipid, disrespectful to Raith” and accused them of lacking “quality, urgency, organisation, leadership and professionalism”.

While many were left stunned by Lennon’s blast, former Hibs defender Craig Paterson believes such outbursts are an important part of a manager’s armoury if he chooses the right moment to let rip.

As a player, Paterson had experience aplenty of such moments, ex-Easter Road boss Eddie Turnbull “no shrinking violet”. However, he revealed his most memorable half-time dressing down came from Bertie Auld.

“We were at Ibrox and 1-0 down at the interval but had taken a bit of a battering,” recalled Paterson. “Bertie came in and let fly at everyone. He didn’t single anyone out. He slaughtered us all – bang, bang, bang.

“He went on for three or four minutes, then he threw the dressing-room door open and told us ‘get out of my sight’ and so we found ourselves back on the pitch six or seven minutes before Rangers came back out. Everyone must have been thinking ‘what the heck is going on?’.

“We scored in the second half, drew 1-1 and people were probably thinking Bertie had pulled a tactical masterstroke when, in fact, he’d just run out of things to say.”

If few were surprised at Lennon – renowned for being a fiery character both as a player and manager – blowing his top, Paterson revealed the pressure can get the better of even the most mild mannered.

He said: “Jock Wallace at Rangers could be ferocious at half-time, the danger was he might hook you as he steamed around the dressing room.

“Tommy Burns was the nicest man you would ever want to know but there was a day at Kilmarnock when we were going for promotion, were 3-0 up on Clydebank and they came back to draw 3-3.

“His face was beetroot, he was foaming at the mouth, slaughtered everyone and stormed out. A couple of minutes later he brought a young disabled Killie fan in, introduced him to everyone and was as nice as ninepence.”

While admitting Lennon’s language at the weekend had been strong, Paterson believes he probably chose his moment to vent his spleen after seeing his team drop points to Ayr United and Raith either side of a battling Scottish Cup performance against Hearts to force a replay at Easter Road tomorrow night.

The BBC summariser said: “Neil is that kind of character. He didn’t suffer fools as a player and he won’t as a manager.

“It [the result] wasn’t a major surprise given the position Hibs are in, red-hot favourites to win the league and with the lead they have. He’ll be determined that no-one is going to take the foot off the gas and think the job is done.

“It was a wee reminder to everyone that there are good teams in that division and a couple of defeats could see Dundee United right back into it.

“There’s obviously tomorrow night’s big cup tie coming up with all the hype that surrounds these games but he’s reminding people the important thing is promotion – the cup is a bonus. Getting into the Premier League is an absolute must. That’s something that everyone from the chairman down will have stressed.”

Lennon made reference to the way in which Hibs went toe-to-toe with Premier League sides throughout last season, beating Aberdeen, Dundee United and St Johnstone on their way to the League Cup final and then defeating Hearts, Inverness Caley and United again as they ended their 114-year wait to lift the Scottish Cup.

The inference was clear: they can raise their game for such encounters in exactly the same way Championship teams are upping their game when they face Hibs.

Paterson said: “With Hearts and Rangers gone from the Championship, other clubs will be looking at Hibs as the ‘big time Charlies’ and the scalp everyone wants to take. If you want to promote yourself as a player or a manager that’s what you want to do.”

There is, of course, the danger a manager can alienate himself from his players but, insisted Paterson, Lennon will have chosen his moment.

He said: “It’s all about knowing your players and Neil has been there long enough to know some need an arm around their shoulder and others a kick up the backside.

“You look at the crowds Hibs are getting and, if the players have disappointed them, then the manager is quite right to come out and say their disappointment is nothing compared to what he is thinking.

“It’s something a manager will do once in a while to provoke a reaction. If you try to do it every week then it loses the impact.

“He’s challenged the players ahead of a massive game to show Saturday was below par and that isn’t going to happen another week.

“It’s a way of geeing them up, to underline that promotion is the absolute aim. But, when you have a cup tie replay on your own ground against your biggest rivals, that will be all the inspiration the players need.

“After the Ayr game, Hibs players must have realised that at Raith they could play themselves out of the replay even although these are the games everyone wants to be involved in so it will be interesting to see if one or two of them find themselves on the bench having not performed at Stark’s Park.”

Lennon’s options, however, are limited, particularly in defence where Hibs will be missing centre backs Paul Hanlon and Jordon Forster, who are both injured.

However, whatever the outcome of the replay, Paterson believes Lennon’s squad is strong enough to hold title rivals Dundee United, Falkirk and Morton at bay.

He said: “It was disappointing for Forster. I thought he might have struggled at Tynecastle given he hadn’t played a lot but he was great.

“Hibs will be a bit thin on the ground in that area but, as far as the league goes, they are probably better prepared than anyone else. They have a strong squad in terms of both the number of players and quality and, while they’ll have some difficult places to go between now and the end of the season, the bonus for Hibs is the players they have sitting on the bench.”