Lennon: Hibs can make it back to top of Scottish football

Happy Hibees: Fans welcome Neil Lennon at the clubs East Mains training centre
Happy Hibees: Fans welcome Neil Lennon at the clubs East Mains training centre
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New Hibs head coach Neil Lennon has no concerns about dropping into the SPFL Championship because he believes he has joined a club equipped to reassert itself at the top end of Scottish football.

After emerging as the clear favourite to replace the Rotherham United-bound Alan Stubbs last week, the 44-year-old Northern Irishman was finally confirmed in his new role at 10pm last night following three hours of talks with chairman Rod Petrie and chief executive Leeann Dempster at Hibs’ East Mains training base. Lennon has signed a two-year deal at Easter Road and will be assisted by his trusty lieutenant Garry Parker. Although the former Celtic manager has had to drop down a level following a turbulent 17-month reign at Bolton Wanderers in the English Championship, Lennon is enthused by the challenge of attempting to return Hibs to the Premiership.“I don’t have an issue working in the Championship,” he said. “I know Scottish football very well and I played in the lower leagues in England earlier in my career. It’s the club that attracted me and the potential and the fanbase.

“Hibs is a big club with fantastic tradition. The facilities are incredible. I’m really impressed. The chairman was great, he took time to come and see me. I’ve been really impressed with what Leeann’s had to say as well. It’s very exciting for me. I’ve got big admiration for the club. It’s a great club with a great support and we want to really get it going again. We want to get Hibs back in the Premiership and if we can win a few trophies along the way, then so be it.” Lennon has title-winning experience after leading Celtic to three Premiership titles in four years as manager. The new head coach believes that will stand him in good stead as he bids to build on the foundations laid by Stubbs over the last two years and take the Easter Road side back into the top flight for the first time since being relegated under Terry Butcher in 2014.

“Hopefully, I can bring a winning mentality to the club,” he said. “I’m following in big shoes, with what Alan achieved here. The remit is obviously to try and get promotion but that will be pretty difficult because of the competition in the Championship.

“The budget will be strong for the division but we’ll have to overcome Dundee United and Falkirk as well as the likes of Dunfermline, who are coming up with momentum. It’s going to be an exciting league.”

Petrie was thrilled to have landed Lennon after the club identified him early on as their primary target to replace Stubbs. “We are delighted to have secured a head coach of Neil’s calibre and profile, and we look forward to him bringing his drive and mentality to our campaign to win the Championship this season and secure promotion back to the top flight of Scottish football,” he said.

Lennon was due to face the media at Easter Road this afternoon.

Following confirmation of the Lennon coup, Hibs fans were in line for more good news, with Paul Hanlon close to pledging his future to the club. The long-serving defender’s contract expired at the end of last season and he has spent the past couple of weeks mulling over his options. However, the 26-year-old is believed to be ready to sign a new deal with the club at which he has spent his entire career.

Meanwhile, Hibs have announced three pre-season friendlies in the build-up to their Europa League campaign. Lennon’s team will head to Shielfield on Tuesday, July 5 to face League Two side Berwick Rangers before, as reported by the Evening News earlier in the week, making the short trip to Meadowbank to face SPFL new boys Edinburgh City two days later. Hibs will step up their preparations on Sunday, July 10 when they welcome Premiership side Motherwell to Easter Road four days before beginning their European adventure.