Neil Lennon believes the current Hibs team is significantly more stylish than the one he led to the Championship title last season.
The manager has been thrilled with the improvement in his team since they returned to the top flight this season and feels they are now much easier on the eye.
“From a playing point of view, we’ve progressed significantly this season,” he said. “The performances and the consistency and the quality of football we’re producing is far superior to what we had last year. The Championship is more attritional but the football we’ve played this season and the consistency of performance has been really high, which gets us to the point where we’re not far off third place in the Premiership.”
While winning matches will always be Lennon’s priority, he explained that he is fully intent on providing entertainment. The manager believes that the recent performance in the 2-0 victory over Aberdeen and the positive response from a capacity Easter Road crowd offered vindication that things are moving in the right direction.
“We have a duty and obligation to entertain,” said Lennon. “Ultimately, the end game is to win. Sometimes you can play poorly and win and your weekend is good, sometimes you can play brilliantly and lose, and still your weekend is good although it hurts a bit. But when the team puts it all together and you see the connection between the supporters and the players, that’s what I want.
“Look at the last home game against Aberdeen and the response the 19,500 fans gave the players and vice-versa — it was fantastic. It’s difficult to produce that every week in the Premiership, but I feel the players have made huge strides this season in terms of playing the type of football that’s been in the DNA of this club.
“I was delighted with the response we got from the supporters after that game. Some said it was the best we’d played in a long time, and that’s the biggest compliment you can get when you’re own supporters are speaking about you like that because the modern-day supporter is hard to please. You’re not going to get the perfect team, the perfect player or the perfect manager, but that’s what we strive for. We had a big performance against Aberdeen and at Ibrox the week before. Not only are we winning games, we’re winning with a style that is pleasing to the Hibernian public. The quality of our football and our attacking intent is of a very high calibre at the minute. We want to maintain those standards.”
The arrival of players like Brandon Barker and Scott Allan has contributed to Hibs becoming a more fluent team this season. In addition to simply strengthening his squad, Lennon said he will always look to recruit players with a natural inclination to entertain supporters. He believes that having players who excite the crowd are a crucial part of creating a team to be reckoned with when it comes to challenging for trophies and league titles.
“It’s important we tap in to find out what the supporters want,” he said. “Player recruitment is important for next season, in terms of getting the type of player the fans want to see and also the type of player who is going to make us better. I want us to be challenge the top teams week in, week out, year in, year out, consistently. Aberdeen are a bit ahead of us in terms of finance and the structure they have but there’s no reason we can’t break into that bracket. It’s always going to be difficult to break the Celtic-Rangers duopoly but we will try. We will strive to do that and maybe finish second one season if we can and upset the apple cart. Leicester won the Premier League so there’s no reason Hibs can’t do it some time, but you need all the stars to align at the right time.”