Neil Lennon warns Hibs players not to dine out on cup win

New Hibs boss Neil Lennon wants Jason Cummings to stay at the club. Picture: Gordon Fraser

New Hibs boss Neil Lennon wants Jason Cummings to stay at the club. Picture: Gordon Fraser

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There were plates and tankards and clocks. Prancing stags, birds in flight and Viking longboats. Fruit bowls and daggers and other bawbees and we had plenty of time to study them all because Neil Lennon kept us waiting.

Previous Hibernian managers have been unveiled in the press room, a place of half-time pies and full-time quotes, but as befitting a man who’s won titles and cups and beaten Barcelona, Lenny began his first day in the job on the third floor at Easter Road, where some of the nice stuff is kept.

But not the Scottish Cup, that was somewhere else, and the new boss might have requested this.

Winning the cup had been a “great achievement”. The players had shown “a helluva amount of character” after missing out on promotion to pick themselves up and a few days later beat Rangers in the final. “But I don’t want them dining out on that,” he said, steely-eyed. The time for looking back and luxuriating in a historic triumph would be when their careers were over. Right now they simply had to get themselves back into Scotland’s top league.

The wait for Lennon was so long while TV hogged him and then the photographers snapped him in different parts of the stadium (how long does it take to compose a shot of a man holding a scarf above his head, for goodness sake?) that some of the hacks feared he might be all talked out or his answers would be flat, delivered on repeat.

Nothing like. What did he think he would bring to Hibs? “Nothing!” he cackled. Then: “Baggage!” He asked the journos if they’d missed him since he left Celtic and the Scottish game. “Of course we did,” said one. He loosened his Hibs tie and roared: “Liars!”

Lennon at Hibs. Lennon in the Championship. You may still be processing that but the man himself is up and running with the idea. He enthused about John McGinn, Jason Cummings. Would one of them have to be sold to pay for the new manager? Not if he could help it. “I want to keep those two, build a team around them.”

Hibs have had a few managers recently. Well, more than a few. They always get asked about style. Which would they adopt? Did they know there was a Hibs way, that the fans liked attractive football? Or would they change it to something more pragmatic?

Even those with licence to change owing to the failures of the previous regime would fudge this question. But Lennon, who’s replacing the guy who finally won the club the cup, didn’t feel like fudging anything, although he wasn’t aiming any direct criticism at Alan Stubbs.

I asked him if he thought Hibs had tried to play too much football in the ruff, tuff world of the Championship. “Possibly, “ he said. “There’s nothing wrong with good football if you get penetration and goals, but at times you need to mix it up a bit and you need to be physical.”

It was time for the inevitable question – were Hibs serial softies?

Obviously the side Lennon has inherited from Stubbs did their darnedest to disprove this theory in their last match – recovering from being a goal behind with ten minutes left to finally smash the cup curse. Nevertheless Lennon thought it worth recalling past failings and wasn’t coy about this, giving good quote as he’s always done.

“Boyband,” he said, referring to the Hibs he remembered from his own playing days. “Boyband,” he repeated. “They had the Browns and Whittakers and all these lads. They’d come and play Celtic and play really well and then they’d go out partying in Edinburgh, getting pats on the back. Then the week after they’d go and lose to Motherwell. That won’t be tolerated by me.”

Hibs had a “culture” of attractive football going back to the Famous Five, he continued, sitting beneath a portrait of Gordon Smith, and he wanted to “buy into that”. Tony Mowbray’s team had been pleasing on the eye, achieving a third-place finish in the top division. That was where he hoped to take Hibs, he said, but “the 
mentality had to change a little bit”.

There would be no pats on the back for “drawing away at Dumbarton”, he reiterated. Since Hibs lost both times at the home of the Sons last season, the faithful would sincerely hope not.

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