Imagine Neil Lennon’s wrath. Then imagine it lasting from Aberdeen to somewhere south of Dundee.
Spare a thought for Hibernian players, for whom this was the uncomfortable reality seven days ago, following a 4-1 thrashing at Pittodrie. Normally a manager’s post-match rage is confined to the dressing room. But Lennon’s ire simply intensified as he sat on the coach home and re-watched the 90 minutes again. All the while those players sitting near him tried to slither further and further down their seats.
Lewis Stevenson was one of those attempting to make himself smaller as the glow from Lennon’s laptop lit up the front of the bus in the late afternoon gloaming.
“Aye, he was watching it on a laptop and I’m not that far from him,” confirmed Stevenson.
“I was slumping down as far as possible on my seat to try and stay out of eye contact.”
By the time the bus got to Forfar, Hibs were already three down – again. By Dundee, it was four going on five or six. An Anthony Stokes deflected strike, probably scored as the Hibs party were on the outskirts of Perth, didn’t bring any consolation to Lennon, who has since conceded he might have been too hard on his players.
The manager told reporters directly after the game that even Cowdenbeath would have beaten his side on that form. While Lennon, pictured, has since calmed down his rage got worse before it got better.
“He’s a passionate man and passionate about his job, he loves his team to bits and wants us to do well,” said Stevenson.
“It’s the mark of a great manager. You would rather that than somebody who didn’t care and went home on the bus and listened to music.
“We don’t want to put in performances like that. We know the time and money spent by supporters, especially going up there.
“Our performance was terrible and I don’t think anyone got pass marks.
“It does serve a purpose,” added Stevenson, with reference to being given the hairdryer treatment. “In the past it has worked and I’m hoping it’s going to work again. We’ve had a good training week, it’s been sharp and everyone is hungry and has a point to prove but we need to do our talking on the pitch.”
Hibs have plenty opportunity to do this. After three games in six days against teams in the top three, they embark on another testing run of three games, including a derby, in seven days. Lennon has accepted there were mitigating circumstances for last week’s uncharacteristic display at Aberdeen, chief of which was tiredness.
He was right to reflect on 2017 as a whole for Hibs rather than dwell on a poor 90 minutes. “It will have hurt them,” he said. “But to be fair we are having a very good year – 2017 has been a very good year and I just want them to finish it strongly. There are other big games coming up for other teams and hopefully we can capitalise on that. And looking at last weekend in isolation there were some strange results. The game against us might have taken a lot out of Rangers and obviously the standout result was Celtic losing at Hearts, where it looked like fatigue kicking in there as well.
“Sometimes when you play so many games in a short period of time [you get these surprising results],” he added. “If you’re a betting man you’d keep your money in your pocket. We just want to find consistency again.
“The Celtic and Rangers games showed us in a great light,” he added. “If we can replicate that level of performance and intensity we should be in for a good couple of results again.”
Lennon will ideally wish for three good results to round off a fine year for his side, beginning today against Ross County.
The manager has concerns at right-back where he could be without both Steven Whittaker, who is struggling with a pelvic injury, and David Gray, who as well as not having played since 18 November has picked up a virus. It means Efe Ambrose, who was culpable at one of Aberdeen’s goals last week, could continue to deputise in this position.
After admitting he went over the top with his criticisms last week, Lennon has now shown his generous side.
Depending on what happens today, the manager has given his players Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off ahead of Wednesday’s eagerly-awaited trip to Tynecastle.
l Lewis Stevenson was speaking after handing 23 charities £500 each in vouchers to be spent on Christmas presents in the Hibernian clubstore. The gift is the latest donation from funds raised through Stevenson’s testimonial, which took place in the summer.