I'm good cop, Neil Lennon's the bad cop, says Hibs No 2
Hibs manager Neil Lennon will have the club's Europa League qualifying opponents watched tonight, ahead of their meeting on 14 July.
Assistant coach Garry Parker has been dispatched to take in the first leg of the tie between Icelandic side Valur and Brondby, while Lennon himself will fly out to Denmark for next week’s return match.
The Easter Road side will meet whoever progresses in their first competitive match of the season. The European adventure is reward for winning the Scottish Cup but it comes very early in Lennon’s reign, meaning he will still be shy of all the new signings he wants and short on preparation time, with the games coming ahead of the kick-off to the domestic campaign.
“I haven’t given it much thought yet. It will be our fourth game [after friendlies with Berwick Rangers, Edinburgh City and Motherwell],” said the Hibs manager.
“I think Brondby might prevail as they are a strong team with a history, but either side will be tough.
“Scandinavian sides are always a little bit ahead of us with match fitness and I’m aware of this from games in the past with Celtic so we’ll see what comes out of it this time. But Icelandic football is also really on the up. Beating England was a big shock but brilliant for them.”
But Lennon is a winner, according to his right-hand man, Parker, and while they are keeping European expectations real, he says the Hibs boss, whom he describes as the bad cop to his good cop act, has lofty demands when it comes to the Championship.
“It’s a good club, it’s just in the wrong league,” said the man who was a member of Lennon’s backroom team at Celtic and Bolton. “We are here to put that right and get us out of this league.
“We did well at Celtic and went down to Bolton, where things didn’t go so well, but you learn from your mistakes and we are back in Scotland and hungry to prove a point that we can do the job.”
He said that man-management and getting players to believe in what he is doing would rate as Lennon’s best qualities as a manager, while he is there to add another opinion and do a lot of the work on the training pitch. It is a dynamic that serves them well, he said.
“I put the session on and he stands on the sidelines barking his orders! I’ll be the good guy – it’s a good combination. I’ve not seen much of a change in Neil… he can still be an angry man. There is not much sign of him mellowing. If we are winning and people are working correctly, he’s happy. If not, then he is an angry man, as you’d expect.
“It’s been very good so far. The standard has been good, very good, and the boys are working very hard. We need a couple of players but what we have seen so far is very good and with a couple of tweaks we should be alright.
“I think the players are trying to prove a point and show us what they are good at, their strengths. This is a fresh start and they are all fighting for their places.”