Neil Lennon has declared that Hibs are targeting the Europa League group stages, as the Easter Road side prepares for a second tilt at European football under the Northern Irishman.
Hibs would have to navigate through four rounds, where they could quite feasibly come up against the likes of Sevilla, Besiktas and RB Leipzig, to make it to the group stages but Lennon says his team are targeting that “absolutely”. No club from Scotland has ever managed to overcome those four sets of qualifiers, but the fact that Republic of Ireland duo Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers have made it to the Europa League group stages means Lennon refuses to accept that Scottish teams outside of Celtic should give up to having European football right up until Christmas.
““You have to hit the ground running in Europe but the incentives are great. We’re targeting the group stage, absolutely,” he said. “When you see some of the clubs who are in it – it’s tough but not insurmountable.”
“It’s not impossible but the timing makes it hard. A lot of teams are already well up to speed.
“We’re back in on 18 June and hopefully the main business will be done by then. The Irish clubs did it on a summer season, they caught a few teams cold. There’s no doubt it’s an advantage.
“If it was September we’d be rubbing our hands because five or six games into the league season, you’re bang at it.
“Because it’s early, it’s difficult and you’re going to all corners of Europe in different weather and time zones.
“You have to acclimatise very quickly and it’s interesting for a manager.
“My team surprised me against Brondby two years ago when we beat them [away]. I knew I had a right good group then.
“Unfortunately we went out on penalties but they were a very good side. Hopefully that experience will stand us in good stead this year.”
• Neil Lennon was speaking at the SPFL Trust’s Annual Golf Day at The Carrick. All proceeds raised will be used towards mental health first aid training in Scottish football in partnership with the Chris Mitchell Foundation. For more information visit www.spfltrust.org.uk