Neil Lennon: I won't be defined as Hibs boss by Hearts results
Neil Lennon has insisted his Easter Road tenure won't be defined by results against Hearts.
Hibs currently lie fourth in the Ladbrokes Premiership, with realistic ambitions of breaking into the top three before the end of the season.
But Lennon is adamant that results against Hearts are merely a footnote in their campaign and he is not driven by revenge after the loss at Tynecastle.
In his pre-match press conference, a relaxed Lennon said: “I will not be defined as Hibs manager by derby results. If that’s what the Hibs fans are looking for, then they have the wrong man in charge.
“I’m looking at the bigger picture of taking the club on and progressing it, and if we can win derbies along the way then so be it.”
Lennon’s side will cut the gap between themselves and Aberdeen to three points with victory over their Edinburgh rivals, and the Hibs head coach is adamant that the fight for a European spot takes precedence.
“At the end of the day it’s a league game. There are three points there which is important if we want to keep closing in on Aberdeen and Rangers, so it’s vital we win the game from that aspect,” he said.
“It’s a derby and you get the bragging rights for six weeks until you play them again, [but] the important thing is to win the game. We’re not playing for a trophy, but a European place is as good as a trophy.”
Lennon also admitted that he enjoys the “tamer” nature of the Edinburgh rivalry, compared to the Old Firm in Glasgow, which he experienced as both a player and manager.
Lennon added: “I enjoy these [derbies] much more than I enjoyed the Glasgow one. The build-up isn’t as intense or as fraught, but the result is still the same and you want to win it.
“You know what it means to the support and the club so there is still pressure, but I enjoy these derbies. They are certainly a lot tamer than the Glasgow one but still a derby to be savoured and enjoyed.”
A magnanimous Lennon refused to reignite his war of words with Craig Levein, following an angry reaction to his Tynecastle counterpart’s comments after Hearts defeated Hibs in the Scottish Cup in January.
Levein claimed in the aftermath that the victory would “restore the natural order” in the rivalry, with Lennon branding the comments “a crock of crap.”
But ahead of the showdown on Friday, Lennon said: “I’ve taken a step away from it on that side, some people can get obsessed with the rivalry and it’s the same in Glasgow as well.
“It’s a difficult thing to do to contain it, but I don’t have any problems with that and they [Hearts] don’t get under my skin at all.”