Neil Lennon has launched a passionate defence of his Hibernian predecessor Alan Stubbs, describing his dismissal by Rotherham as “ridiculous” and criticising the cut-throat culture of the SkyBet Championship.
Stubbs lasted just four months – 14 games – at the New York Stadium after leaving his role as head coach at Easter Road on the back of lifting the Scottish Cup last season.
He claimed just one victory in those outings and, with the Millers marooned at the foot of the table, was axed on Wednesday along with his former Hibs lieutenants John Doolan and Andy Holden.
Stubbs was handed a three-year deal at Rotherham by Tony Stewart and allowed to sign 13 players including ex-SPFL regulars Will Vaulks, Scott Allan and Darnell Fisher.
However, that counted for nothing following a nightmare start to the season and Lennon empathises with his former Celtic team-mate.
“I have volumes of sympathy for Alan Stubbs. He goes in there after leaving a good legacy at Hibs and is given a three-year contract,” started Lennon. “Then, after 14 games he is gone. I don’t understand it.
“What chance has he had to lay foundations or alter the style of play? I realise it is a results-driven business, but it’s not only Alan – it’s guys like Roberto di Matteo or Paul Trollope who have gone even earlier. It’s just ridiculous.
“Where does this leave the players he has brought in? You go there, perhaps on the back of seeing Alan as someone they want to work with. Now they will have to start all over again.
“I do think, given time, he would have turned it around, but we live in an atmosphere in football where if it’s not fast food, instant results, then people turn on you very quickly. There’s no patience.
“Alan had every right to believe he would be given the time to get it right, he signed a three-year contract to build something there, to change the club. People might shrug and say ‘he’ll be alright, he’ll get paid up and get some money’, but that’s not the way he wants it. Like every manager, he wants to work. It’s their career.”
Lennon is speaking from experience, having endured a testing stint at Bolton Wanderers in a league which he pointedly describes as “not a good environment to work in”.
The Northern Irishman saved the club from relegation during his first season, but oversaw the Trotters plummeting down the table amid financial problems and broken promises in the subsequent campaign.
He left Bolton in March after a miserable 17 months and they were ultimately relegated to League One. Lennon cuts a relieved figure as he reflects on leaving English football to return north of the border.
“It’s a culture of panic – and it’s not a good environment to work in,” he continued. “It becomes more and more stressful. You are analysed day-in, day-out, through social media and fans’ forums and it all builds and builds.
“It snowballs so quickly when you are in that division. We’ll never know how it would have turned out, but I have a lot of sympathy for Alan and many other managers that have been victims of that.
“You go in there with ideas and plans that, when they were interviewed, the chairmen and chief executives supported. Then that support goes within three months!
“Maybe we should be looking at those people who hired the managers and say ‘it’s you that got it wrong, then’. Where’s their accountability?
“But you have people coming in and throwing millions into reaching the ‘promised land’ and if you don’t get immediate results in that arena, you’re out.”
Without the demands created by the millions on offer south of the border, Lennon firmly believes Scottish football provides a far more stable platform to develop coaches and build results.
He points at Premiership top-six regulars Derek McInnes at Aberdeen, St Johnstone boss Tommy Wright and Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson as prime examples of that ethos.
“I don’t see many clubs up here readily hiring and firing managers and it is good that there is a belief in what they are doing,” continued the Hibs boss. “Maybe it is because there are not millions to chase and throw money at.
“I’d like to think Scottish football, barring occasions every now and then, is more stable. In the main there is longevity for managers. Derek [McInnes] has been up at Aberdeen for a long time, Tommy Wright is doing great, Robbie Neilson is going into his third season at Hearts.
“These are stable clubs and environments – and look how it works.”