Chris Humphrey has no problem with Neil Lennon ripping into the Hibs players when he sees fit because he knows from personal experience that the manager is just as likely to display his compassionate side behind closed doors.
The Northern Irishman hasn’t been slow to criticise his team this season when he feels they haven’t performed to high enough standards. In a notable post-match tirade after a draw at Raith Rovers in February, Lennon branded his players “a disgrace”, while he was similarly scathing after the 3-2 Scottish Cup defeat by Aberdeen on Saturday even though Hibs were widely deemed to have been the better team against the Scottish Premiership’s second-placed side. Humphrey, who was an unused substitute at Hampden after returning from a two-month lay-off caused by a combination of injury and personal problems, insists there’s far more to his manager, however, than the feisty character often seen on a match-day.
Asked if he was surprised that Lennon slaughtered the team at the weekend, the winger said: “Not really because we all know what the gaffer can be like. He can be like that but then when he’s calmed down, he speaks to you and explains why he was like that. Listen, he’s a winner. Yeah, OK, he can go mad sometimes, but at the end of the day he loves his players and he’s always there for us. He’ll do anything for his players.
“I found that out when I went through my off-field problems. I was going through a difficult time and had a bit of time off, and the gaffer was brilliant. He was there every step of the way for me and showed another side of him that people might not see. He rang me up and gave me a lot of support. He told me to come back whenever I was ready. I can’t thank him enough for that. You don’t really see that side of him when he’s on the pitch. Personally, I’ve seen both sides of him and I can understand where he comes from when goes mad or whatever. He just wants us to win, so if we don’t win, he’s not happy.
“Sometimes he might pull whoever he wasn’t happy with aside and say ‘look, I went like that because I feel you’re a good player’ or whatever it might have been. I think the lads understand why he gets like that. It’s just the way he is. He’s not going to change. People might just see what he’s like on the sidelines and say ‘oh, look at him’ or whatever, but when you get to work with him day in, day out, you get to understand his personality and what he’s really all about.”
Humphrey was relieved to return to the squad after a frustrating period. The former Motherwell winger signed at the start of January on a short-term contract until the end of the season but managed only six appearances before succumbing to a foot injury that forced him off at the start of the Scottish Cup win over Hearts in February. The 29-year-old Jamaican knows he needs to try and impress in Hibs’ final three matches of the season – against Raith Rovers tonight, Ayr United on Saturday and St Mirren the following week – if he is to earn himself a new deal.
“I felt my Achilles before the Hearts game, so when I came off against Hearts I thought it was that but it wasn’t – it was my fascia,” said Humphrey. “I also had a couple of weeks off with family problems as well, so I missed a lot of rehab with that, which made it longer as well. But the gaffer was brilliant and I’d just like to thank him for that.
“It has been very frustrating, but hopefully I can play a part in the last three games and see where that takes me. I haven’t heard anything about a contract, and I didn’t expect to. I’ve been injured for a long time, so I wouldn’t expect to hear anything from the club yet. I need to play and prove to them that I’m fit and it’s not going to happen again.”
“These games are important for me to try to get some games under my belt, and for my own piece of mind to prove to myself that it’s fine.”
Humphrey was part of a Motherwell side that finished in the top three of the Premiership in both 2012 and 2013. He sees no reason why Hibs can’t do likewise and live up to Lennon’s bold billing as the second best team in Scotland next season.
“We proved on Saturday that we can mix with the best of them,” said Humphrey. “Aberdeen are second in the Premiership, but apart from the first 20-odd minutes, I thought we did very well against them.
“This club should be very excited about next season because I think it’ll be a good one for them. Keep this bunch together, and the gaffer obviously, and I can see them doing very well. The gaffer’s got experience of winning that league, and I’ve always said I think this is a Premiership squad. I see Hibs doing very well.”