Martin Boyle has insisted Hibs’ horror half hour against Motherwell as they surrendered a two goal lead is already a thing of the past after he and his team-mates held a heated post-mortem less than 24 hours later.
Neil Lennon’s squad sat down to watch a video nasty highlighting exactly how all striker Anthony Stokes’ good work fell apart as the Steelmen were allowed to stage a stunning comeback, a brace from Louis Moult cancelling out the Republic of Ireland star’s earlier double.
As Stokes later admitted, Lennon’s players were ultimately happy to salvage a point before being subjected to a very public savaging by their furious boss who scathingly likened their efforts to those of an under-eight team.
The tongue lashing and subsequent sit down in the video analysis suite at East Mains may have caused more than a few to wince but, revealed Boyle, the players were every bit as angry as their manager.
“Were voices raised?,” he asked. “What do you think? It was a bit fiery at times but it was a conversation we needed to have. At this level if you make mistakes you get punished and that’s what happened. We can’t be sloppy again because if we are, we get hurt.”
Lennon has hung his players out to dry before, most notably following a 1-1 draw against Raith Rovers at Stark’s Park last season when he felt they had fallen well short of the standard required – and he didn’t spare their blushes.
It was a tactic which worked, provoking a stunning performance to knock Capital rivals Hearts out of the Scottish Cup just a few days later and one which he’ll hope is repeated in tonight’s Betfred Cup quarter-final against Livingston which carries the carrot of yet another Hampden outing at the end of next month.
Lennon’s approach, however, has attracted criticism in some quarters, the suggestion being that such matters should be kept within the confines of the dressing-room. But the Northern Irishman has countered by pointing out he was only giving voice to what 17,335 supporters had witnessed – hardly a secret.
However, as unwanted as his manager’s words might have been, Boyle was adamant no-one had been red faced by his straight talking.
“Are we embarrassed being criticised in public?” he asked. “No, definitely not because you can’t be embarrassed. We know ourselves being 2-0 up and not winning is not good enough at this club. If the manager is slaughtering us then we deserve it because we’ve obviously not done well enough. The gaffer is a winner, he brings that mentality with him and you have to meet those standards.
“He’s worked at the highest level and won’t accept not winning, he has every right to keep us on our toes. The gaffer said what he said to get a reaction, he has done it before and it worked. He doesn’t like doing it, but if it needs to be done he won’t shy away from it.”
In today’s game, with clubs utilising video analysis, there is no hiding place with every player’s performance subjected to scrutiny. But Boyle believes it is a welcome tool.
He said: “We’ve been through the Motherwell game on video; we’ve had chats about it and the manager has spoken to individuals about what we should be doing better. It was very constructive, it’s all about learning so it doesn’t happen again.
“The video analysis is helpful because sometimes you come away from a game thinking you did okay and it’s not until you see it back again you realise there were things you could have done much better.
“That’s what it’s there for, it’s handy for that. Every team does it these days and, like I said before, it’s about learning.”
Lennon revealed much of his anger came from simply not seeing that second-half collapse against Motherwell coming.
He said: “I shouldn’t get surprised in football but I was very annoyed by it.
“We have to do better. We played well at Dundee and St Johnstone. We played well for an hour against Motherwell but we go from there to there very quickly and that’s something we have to deal with.
“I was critical of the players because the last half hour was not good enough. I don’t know where it comes from. We seem to be going in the right direction and playing well and then: bang – a malaise sets in and we can’t lift ourselves out of it.
“We have analysed it. I don’t want to see it happen again, but if it does I want the players to be able to manage it better.”
Lennon insisted his players weren’t called in on Sunday as a punishment, adamant it was simply part of the preparations for tonight. He said: “I didn’t have them in on a day off. Even if we had won 5-0 they would still have been in because of tonight’s game.”
And he defended criticising his players in public as well as in the privacy of the dressing-room. “There’s no point me sugar coating it in the press because the Hibs public won’t have it, they know me better than that by now.
“It was already out there. I was only telling them what I am seeing – individual errors from players. It’s basics and I found it unacceptable and the players understand that.
“If there are bad moments in the game we need to manage them better. On Saturday, it was mistake after mistake. We didn’t manage the game as well as we should have with the quality and experience we have here.”
Lennon accepted that expectation was high among the Hibs support which brought an added pressure on his players.
“Maybe the expectation is high,” he said, “But this is a big club and when you are at a big club you have to live up to the expectations of the supporters, whether they are realistic or not.
“If you look at the team on Saturday, you’ve got Stokes, you’ve got [Steven] Whittaker, you’ve got [Efe] Ambrose who have all won the title three or four times and played in Europe, the Champions League, actually played in a Europa League final.
“Then I’ve got a goalkeeper [Ofir Marciano] who has played at international level. I’ve got players who have won the cup. I’ve got experienced players in that team and I want them to deal with it.
“I want them to deal with 15 minutes of pressure from the opposition better than we did. We’ve analysed it, dealt with it.
“Will I see it again? Maybe. But I am hoping we manage it a bit better than we did against Hamilton and Motherwell.
“It’s a psychological thing; it’s nothing to do with tactics, fitness or anything like that.”