Hibernian chief executive Leeann Dempster has outlined the non-negotiable demand for Neil Lennon to deliver promotion to the Premiership at his first attempt and insists the new manager will be provided with a “strong budget” to achieve the club’s prime objective.
The Scottish Cup winners are preparing for a third consecutive season in the Championship, their longest period outwith the top flight since they were first admitted to league football in 1893.
While Dempster admits the unbudgeted income Hibs received from reaching both domestic cup finals last season provided a welcome boost to their finances, it is clear they can ill afford their absence from the Premiership to be extended any longer.
It is why the onus has been firmly placed upon Lennon to immediately secure the promotion which eluded his predecessor Alan Stubbs in the past two years.
“Need, desperate, urgent – whatever you want to call it, I believe we are a club who should be in the Premiership,” said Dempster. “You could argue it is needed for finances, but it is a need for this club to be in the Premiership. It is also a wish and a want.
“Incremental income is always helpful. You can never rely upon it but it is fair to say we supported Alan when he was here and it will be the same with Neil, with the sole objective of winning the Championship – that has to be it for us. He will have a strong budget in the Championship. He will have a budget that we feel will be competitive and you can see the players that we have got at the minute. The vast amount of players are still under contract and we want to add to that. We want to support him to go forward.”
Dempster also confirmed the intention of the board to back Lennon’s wish to retain the services of midfielder John McGinn and top scorer Jason Cummings, both of whom are attracting interest from English clubs. She insists there is no pressure on Hibs to cash in on their prize assets.
“The club is in a strong position and has a strong player pool,” added Dempster. “We don’t have a need to do anything. Anything we do, we will do electively – whether that is players going out or coming in.”
Hibernian’s success in recruiting Lennon has raised a few eyebrows, given the higher profile and higher salary the former Celtic and Bolton manager enjoyed in previous jobs. But Dempster was always confident the 44-year-old was not beyond their reach. “I never thought it wasn’t possible,” she said. “When it became clear it was possible, we moved as quickly to get it done.
“We had a good first meeting with Neil – a great first meeting, actually. I think it’s really important when you’re getting to work with people that you’re on the same page and we were on the same page about a number of things.
“We’re going to work really closely together. That’s the way I worked at Motherwell with Stuart McCall and then here with Alan Stubbs. You need to be sure you can work together and I was certain when I met him that we could.
“More important than the finances of the deal was the fact both of us wanted to make it happen.
“It shows ambition on behalf of the club and from Neil’s perspective he absolutely felt it was a good fit for him. So when two parties want something to happen, you can make it work.
“We really wanted it to, we were on the same page in terms of desire and where we want to be with the opportunity here and Neil saw that.
“He is obviously a manager who is known UK-wide and worldwide. You only have to look at the excitement among the supporter base about his appointment.
“As soon as it was talked about, it was something they were getting very, very excited about. It shows the club is doing everything it can to progress. That’s been our aim from day one. Having Neil and Garry Parker here will help us do that. People always tell me to smile more, but I am genuinely pleased about this!”