Hibs head coach Paul Heckingbottom is confident both he and his players won’t be distracted by the hype which will surround Neil Lennon’s return to Easter Road as the interim manager of Celtic arrives for tomorrow evening’s Scottish Cup quarter-final tie.
Lennon makes a swifter return to Leith than anyone could have anticipated after taking charge of the Glasgow outfit this week in the wake of Brendan Rodgers’ sudden departure to Leicester City.
After leading the Parkhead club to victory over Hearts at Tynecastle in his first game back in the dugout on Wednesday, Lennon now faces another trip to the Capital, the match coming just four weeks after his departure from Hibs in mysterious circumstances as a club statement failed to clear up the reasons for his exit, stating he had neither been sacked nor resigned.
Adamant he hadn’t been surprised at the unexpected turn of events at Celtic, Heckingbottom said: “From what I’ve seen in the media and how it’s covered, it probably will distract from it with all your stories, some fans and things. But not for us. For us, it’s a game of football against the best team in the land and we are going to give it everything to try to win it.
“Is it easy to blank out? For me, yes. For the players, yes. It’s a game of football. We all want stories. I hope it adds to the occasion, but people tend to sensationalise things.”
However, Heckingbottom conceded some of his players may feel they have something to prove to Lennon. He said: “That’s natural. It’s only because of the events surrounding Celtic and Neil that you are talking about that, but there is always an element of that in very game.
“Players going back to previous clubs, players playing against previous managers, players playing against former team-mates, players playing against friends. It’s in every single game.
“There is a subconscious element to that. Regardless of the players sitting here saying it’s no different, there is something different subconsciously. As you get older, you learn to use it rather than let it hinder you. We all know what’s at stake, the quarter-final of that trophy. That’s what our focus is rather than anything else.”