Neil Lennon has been suspended by Hibernian and will not be in the dugout for Sunday’s match with St Mirren.
Assistant manager Garry Parker has also been suspended and the Easter Road hierarchy are frantically looking for someone to take charge of the team in Paisley, with members of the backroom staff all understood to be standing by the ostracised boss.
Hibs sit eighth in the Premiership, having failed to win any of their last five league games, but it is understood that the head coach, who has been at the helm since the summer of 2016, became embroiled in some fiery exchanges yesterday, in meetings with the players and with chief executive Leeann Dempster.
Having publicly lambasted the poor performance of his side in Wednesday’s midweek defeat at the hands of Motherwell, the man who delivered in his first season, taking the Easter Road club back into the Premiership following a three-year exile, and then built on that by steering them into a European qualifying place last term, made it clear to his players that he was demanding more of them.
It has been a troublesome term, with a swell of injuries simply exacerbating the difficulty of replacing talismanic midfielders John McGinn and Dylan McGeouch.
Lennon had been adamant that new signings were required to help generate an upturn in fortunes in the second half of the campaign and he was keen to see the first of those newcomers through the doors ahead of the match against the Paisley strugglers.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference on Friday before the dramatic turn of events that led to his suspension, Lennon said: “We are still working on things. We need players in as we are three down – Martin Boyle, Efe Ambrose, Ryan Porteous – and at the minute the squad is functioning on bare bones and we need reinforcements as soon as possible. I would like to add one preferably before Sunday if I can.
“We have seven points to make up on the top six with 15 games to go so we need to start putting wins together. We had five academy players in the squad for Motherwell so that means I only had 13 first team players. That is not enough. We are not getting results and there is mitigating circumstances for that but I still feel that we could do better.”
However, the feeling of board members is that, having been backed both last January and in the summer, he and the players he did have at his disposal should have been performing better than they were and it is understood that, while they were willing to look at options for strengthening the squad, expectations on how many players and how much money could be spent differed from the demands of the former Celtic manager.
Earlier on Friday Lennon explained why he had felt the need to publicly lambast his players in the wake of Wednesday’s disappointing display.
He said: “I don’t keep whipping them all the time but how else are you supposed to approach it? You can’t go, ‘it’s alright lads, we’ll move on to the next game’.
“You have to make demands of players. The manager always takes the brunt of it and that’s fine, I get that but there has to be a responsibility of the players as well. I’ll take responsibility for results and performance but it’s a two-way thing.”
And he had claimed that while he was making demands of his players, they paled compared to those placed on peers operating in the more challenging Old Firm environment and said that they should be prospering at Hibs.
“It’s a hard game. I get that. This is not a hard environment to play in. Glasgow is. This is not a hard environment to play in. Every manager has targets, every manager has demands. Win the league, make Europe, top six, don’t get relegated: they are all demands that managers have. So all pressures are relative. But this pressure we have at this club isn’t very demanding. It’s an environment where they should be thriving, not putting in half-baked performances week in, week out. Because it won’t be tolerated.”