Neil Lennon has admitted he’d love to see scenes of “unbridled joy” if Hibs can finally clinch the Championship title in front of their own fans at Easter Road today.
The Capital club, favourites to top the table since the season began, hold a nine-point lead at the top of the table with four games, prior to today’s fixtures, to play.
If Lennon’s players can beat Queen of the South and Falkirk fail to win against St Mirren, Hibs will achieve that goal, and promotion to the Premiership after a three-year absence this afternoon but, insisted the manager, his players have to concentrate solely on fulfilling their side of the bargain.
Hibs fans will undoubtedly keep Lennon informed of what’s going on at Falkirk, but he stressed: “I can’t control that. The premise is to win the game, first and foremost. We can’t worry about Falkirk, Dundee United or anyone else. Just win the game and it’ll be virtually impossible for anyone else.
“It’s just as stressful as it has been for the past three or four weeks. We know what we have to do and we have done for a considerable period of time. It would be nice to do it in front of our home fans and do it with a bit of style as well. The players are aware of what is at stake.”
Admitting he’s found the past few weeks frustrating and claiming the title would already have been won had a couple of big decisions not gone against Hibs, Lennon said: “We are almost there but not quite and we need to get it over the line. Some players are getting a bit anxious and are maybe trying too hard and not letting it flow.
“It will be very satisfying for me personally, it will be a great sense of achievement for the players. We all feel that Hibs should not be in this division, but we are and you have to earn the right to get out of it. They have nearly done that and there will be a sense of achievement for them.”
Asked if it would be a case of joy or simply relief, Lennon said: “It’ll just be joy – hopefully a feeling of unbridled joy for a lot of people. It has been a long time in waiting.
“I know the worry that a lot of people behind the scenes have gone through. I see it every week in their faces. It doesn’t help me. I’m trying to keep calm and take it game by game. But we are nearly there now, so they can enjoy it as much as anyone.”
Any celebrations, however, will be cut short as far as the players are concerned with the Scottish Cup holders facing Aberdeen in this year’s semi-final at Hampden in seven days’ time. Lennon said: “You have to enjoy these times. We set out our target at the start of the season and it’s not easy.
“There will be a sense of ‘job well done’, but we will not be able to enjoy it too much as we have the semi after that. The priority was always the title and the Scottish Cup is a bonus, a really exciting bonus.”