Celtic manager Neil Lennon has insisted his assistant John Kennedy ‘won’t be going anywhere’ despite being linked with the vacancy at Hibs.
Kennedy is understood to feature prominently on a shortlist of potential candidates drawn up by the Easter Road club since they sacked Paul Heckingbottom as manager last week.
Former St Mirren and Sunderland boss Jack Ross remains the bookies’ favourite for the role but Kennedy has now emerged as a credible contender.
The 36-year-old former Scotland defender, who was forced to retire at the age of just 26 because of injury, has been on the first team coaching staff at Celtic since 2014.
Kennedy was promoted to the position of assistant manager by Lennon when he replaced Brendan Rodgers at the Scottish champions in February this year, a month after his own two-and-a-half year stint in charge of Hibs came to an end.
Lennon believes Hibs’ potential interest in Kennedy is predictable and understandable but is confident he will not be tempted away from Celtic.
“I don’t want John to go but it doesn’t surprise me he is being linked with Hibs because he is a superb coach,” said Lennon.
“It’s a feather in John’s cap if it’s the case Hibs are interested but as far as I’m concerned, he won’t be going anywhere because he’s an integral part of what we do here.”
Lennon’s sentiments were echoed by Jonny Hayes who shone in Celtic’s 2-0 home win over Motherwell on Sunday which kept them at the top of the Premiership table on goal difference from Rangers.
Republic of Ireland international Hayes credits his successful switch from playing as a winger with Aberdeen to performing at left back with Celtic to the influence of Kennedy.
“I can’t see him going to Hibs myself,” said Hayes. “But it’s obvious John is going to be a manager one day. The work he does here, he’s been enormous behind the scenes.
“He was a great player but he’s an outstanding coach. He’s Celtic through and through as well, so I can’t see him leaving. At least I hope not!
“I’d played at left-back before but it’s hard trying to learn a new position and picking it up as quickly as possible.
“I feel I am learning every time I play there but it’s great to be able to bounce questions off John. He’s a fantastic coach who really knows the defensive side of the game. He’s been a real comfort blanket for me and I always talk to him about it after the games. He reassured me and gives me confidence.”