Bullish Neil Lennon intends to turn Hibs into an ultra-consistent winning machine as he bids to return them to the Scottish Premiership in his first attempt.
The new head coach knows the Easter Road club have been widely renowned over the years for having a soft underbelly. Lennon himself noted it in his days as a Celtic player, when he detected a “boy band” feel to the club, with an emphasis on playing well and taking plaudits rather than ending up with genuine glory.
However, he hopes last month’s Scottish Cup triumph can act as a watershed moment for Hibs as he bids to harness a win-at-all costs mentality.
“I’ve been one of the first ones to say that Hibs have been soft,” said Lennon, as he was officially unveiled to the media yesterday following his appointment as head coach. “Boy band, boy band. When I played against them, they had the Broonies and Whittakers and all these lads. They would come and play Celtic and play really well and then they would go out partying in Edinburgh, getting pats on the back.
“Then they would go and lose to Motherwell the week after. That won’t be tolerated here by me. I don’t want them getting pats on the back for beating Raith Rovers or drawing away at Dumbarton. I’ll give them a pat on the back if they get promotion. They’ve got to learn quickly. Inconsistency won’t be tolerated. It’s not acceptable for a club of this standard.
“I think there is a huge monkey off their back with winning the cup. To lose to Falkirk in the way they did [in the play-offs] and then pick themselves up eight days later and beat Rangers in a cup final showed a hell of amount of character. They can take a lot from that but they’re going to have to show that character week in, week out next season if they want to play for me.”
Lennon knows he has an obligation to produce attractive football. However, he explained that the priority has to be winning matches. He intends to produce a combination of the two.
“There’s a culture here that the club plays good football, going back to the Famous Five, and I want to buy into that,” he said. “The teams that Tony Mowbray produced were good footballing teams. They did really well finishing third and fourth. That’s where we want to take the club to but the mentality has to change a little bit.
“There’s got to be a mix. The team I played in at Celtic and the team I managed had big centre halves, you had me and then you had the players like the Moravicks, the Larssons, the McGeadys. In the team I managed you had your Hoopers, you had solidity in Wanyama and a good goalkeeper, but then you had your players who could play and make a difference. It’s trying to get that mix right. There is maybe a little bit of imbalance that we overplay. That’s maybe a criticism that has been aimed at the team. I haven’t seen enough of them to make that assumption. But this is what I’m hearing so maybe we need to mix things up a little bit. The balance has to be right. There has to be a bit of pragmatism to go with the flamboyancy.”