James Keatings has warned his Hibernian team-mates that they should be afraid of what they will face if they fail to deliver next season.
Speaking as the fixtures were released, revealing that the Easter Road club will meet up with old foes Falkirk on the first day of the Championship campaign, the striker said that he was well aware of the demands that will be made of the Scottish Cup winners by new gaffer Neil Lennon.
“I know what the manager is like from being a young boy at Celtic,” he said. “He is a winner, he is demanding and he won’t accept us being beaten or even drawing. I know for a fact he will have the boys on their toes and he will have us ready.
“Alan [Stubbs] done a great job for us and he has moved on to a massive challenge down south. It is a great opportunity for him and all the boys wish him all the best and hope he does well. But with Hibs, Neil is a great manager to get. It is a massive statement of intent. The boys are all excited to work under him and see what he brings to the team. It is going to be good.”
Having been signed by Stubbs, Keatings acknowledged the part played by the former gaffer in guiding the team to the League Cup final and into the play-offs for the second successive year, as well as helping to deliver the piece of silverware coveted for so long in Leith.
But he believes the players can now build from that under Lennon, saying that anything short of improvement will be unpalatable for the former Celtic manager, who shares some of his predecessor’s positive attributes but also has an extra edge.
“They are both man-managers and they are winners. But Alan was a bit more chilled. Neil obviously has the fear factor. When he walks in you can feel it. He has that about him where you are taken aback a wee bit by it.
“I was a young boy at Celtic when he was there and when he walked in he could silence the changing room, so he has got that about him.
“He has managed with the top team in the country, he has managed in the Champions League in the last 16 so he brings a lot to the changing room. I think he knows himself how much he can improve certain players and I am sure if he sits down and chats to them he’ll put that across to them. If they think he can make them better then hopefully that can keep them at the club.
“Obviously a manager like him, who has done what he has in the game, can attract players. He is a winner and hopefully we’ll see some big players.”
On his arrival at the club, Lennon described past Hibs teams a bit “boyband”, saying he wanted an extra streak of steel. Keatings was not surprised to see that gauntlet being thrown down. “He is going to come in and want to change that mentality. He is a winner and he will demand that we win every game. That is the way he is. In training he wants us at 100 per cent and the same in games.
“It is a massive club and he wants to come in and make it even bigger and get his point across. He will want to make it a tougher and stronger bunch rather than a weak bunch.”
There will be no better way for the players to impress the new boss than by getting the season off to a flying start against Peter Houston’s Falkirk side.
“It is a great way to kick off the season. You go and win three points and it is massive. Falkirk will be close favourites to win the league or be challenging so it is up to us to go there on the first day and set the tempo.
“If you get a really good result it kickstarts the season. We can build a good run and if you do that you create a gap, just like Rangers did. If you do get a wee gap it is hard for teams behind you to catch you.”