Last week I told the Evening News I thought Alan Stubbs was leaving big shoes to fill at Hibs as he prepared to head for Rotherham.
However, I feel we’ve picked the perfect man to fill them in Neil Lennon. I don’t think, realistically speaking, we could have got any better than the ex-Celtic captain and manager.
I must admit his name came out of the blue, for me. He wasn’t one of the first people that came to mind, simply because I thought he’d be out of our league.
When I heard he was interested, I was delighted because he’s a top-pedigree manager who could easily still be operating at a higher level than Hibs. It’s not often you get a man of his calibre choosing to drop down to the Scottish Championship.
The supporters are understandably thrilled by it because they were looking for the club to build on the Scottish Cup triumph with a strong managerial appointment – I think they’ve certainly done that.
Having had time to digest the developments of the past week, it just looks the perfect fit for Neil and the club.
We needed someone with a big character to make sure we get back to the Premiership, and Neil certainly fits the bill. As a player and a manager, he’s been involved in the Champions League. You can’t ask for much more than that.
From his perspective, he’ll be desperate to prove he’s a good manager and show he can do it at this level. Like any ambitious football person, he’ll be itching to get back on to the big stage, and we’ve given him a platform to do that, so he’ll certainly be giving this job his all.
He’s shown that he’s prepared to go back the way in order to move forward after a difficult time at Bolton. He’ll have learned a lot from his time down there because it seemed to get a bit sticky with all the off-field problems.
After having a job like that, he’ll be happy to have a chance just to concentrate on football at Hibs because we’re in pretty good shape off the field just now. The biggest demand on him will be simply to make sure he gets us promoted at all costs.
As title favourites, we can’t afford to miss out again next time round. Neil has shown in his time at Celtic that he can handle the demands of having to win every week against teams that try to stop you playing and see your team as a scalp. He’ll encounter that at Hibs, because we’ll be expected to win every week next season, but that pressure won’t come as anything new to him. He’s proved he can cope with that.
I’ve met him a few times and despite public perception of him, he’s a very nice man. As a football man, he’s a winner. He just wants to do as well as possible. He’s a demanding manager but that’s what we need to get out of this league. Alan was maybe a wee bit more calm than Neil, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a manager showing his emotions, as long as the players respond to it. I don’t see any reason why the Hibs players won’t enjoy working under him because he’s got a CV that proves he knows how to win.
He’ll have his own ideas about who he wants to bring to the club but he’s certainly got a good base to start from because Alan built a good young squad in his two years at the club. I think he could probably do with adding a bit more experience, however, to help make sure we have enough about us to get over the line and win promotion next season.
The Scottish Cup win showed the potential of this club. If we can get back to the Premiership, then anything is possible for Hibs – it’s just a case of making sure we get there by hook or by crook.
You can just never tell in football whether or not any managerial appointment will guarantee success, but, certainly from the outside looking in, we’ve given ourselves the best possible chance of getting back to the Premiership by appointing a proven winner like Neil Lennon. The board deserve massive credit for being able to lure him to Hibs and maintaining the feelgood factor at the club.