Kevin Thomson: Neil Lennon knew what he was doing with rant

We had just been bundled out of the Champions League at the second qualifying round stage against FBK Kaunas so I was feeling distraught enough.
Hibs manager Neil Lennon is held back by assistant Garry Parker during the draw with Raith Rovers. Picture: Ross Parker/SNSHibs manager Neil Lennon is held back by assistant Garry Parker during the draw with Raith Rovers. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS
Hibs manager Neil Lennon is held back by assistant Garry Parker during the draw with Raith Rovers. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS

But then it became clear Walter Smith decided I was the one to blame. He gave me his version of the Hairdryer afterwards, right in my face.

It made me feel lower than a snake’s belly.

Christian Dailly kept on giving the ball away in the last 15 minutes, and I got the blame! I had been getting a bit frustrated with Christian, so I kept throwing my hands up in the air. I wanted him to pass the ball to me. But we kept giving it away. And they ended up scoring very late on.

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I had scored in the first half to put us one up after a 0-0 draw at Ibrox in the first leg. Once I’d scored everyone thought that was the away goal and we were through. But Kaunas scored on the stroke of half-time and then again late on to go through.

Walter was furious: Who did I think I was, throwing my arms up in the air, like a spoilt brat? It had been more out of frustration on my part. He knew that was not the kind of player I was.

But he let me know what he thought of my performance and body language. Although I reckoned I was one of the better Rangers players on the night I had to accept it, I was the one getting it in the neck.

It was cute from Walter. He knew that every time I got a kick up the backside, he got a reaction – and a positive one. I never sulked or went into my shell. You feel bad when it happens, of course. Obviously you are getting a rollicking, it’s not nice. But the best players react in a positive manner.

That’s why I think Neil Lennon knew what he was doing with his rant after Hibs’ 1-1 draw with Raith Rovers on Saturday, and his threat to put young kids in against Hearts in tonight’s Scottish Cup fifth round replay at Easter Road.

It’s his right to have a go. As a player I have been in that situation many times before, not just at Rangers – although that was the fiercest one.

The best players react in the manner Lenny would expect them to react. The ones who take it to heart, who have the stuffing knocked out of them, aren’t probably the ones he would want for a derby anyway.

I’d like to think the Hibs squad, and I know a lot of them, have been shocked by his outburst. But they are big and brave enough to give the reaction Neil would want.

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The next game after that Kaunas game in 2008 we were away to Falkirk on the first day of the league season – a tricky place to go. We won that 1-0 and I did OK and then we were back at Ibrox to face Hearts, and we beat them 2-0. Obviously Ibrox can be a daunting place to play, especially after a poor result. The Kaunas result was still hanging over everyone at the club.

The fans feared the worst and that put extra pressure on the players. I know Hibs have come off the back of a disappointing result and performance at Raith but they are still in the cup, at home, and they are seven points clear in the league. Things are good.

For me, the pressure I faced after the Kaunas game was far greater. If we had lost or dropped points in those first games of the season, that hangover would have continued.

The best players react in the right manner. Managers are looking for a reaction when they come out and publicly give the players a hard time. I heard Neil say if they think they know better than him then good luck to them.

He has played and managed at the highest level in the Champions League with Celtic. He is there to guide the Hibs players and try to coax them along to be the best they can be.

It’s up to them to react in the manner he’d expect and come out fighting. That’s the least you’d expect of that changing room.

But Walter was different in that he kept his criticism very much indoors. Lenny has decided to do what he has done and he will feel he’s right. I still remember Alan Stubbs having a rant when we were beaten at Raith Rovers in the first play-off game last season. He accidentally broke a mirror in the away changing room. There must be something about that place for Hibs managers!

Alan’s way was always to have his say in private and then praise his players to the press. Lenny is really honest, straight-to-the-point and speaks like a fan – and my Hibs-supporting friends appreciate that.

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There is no right or wrong. It is just different characters and different ways of doing it. I’d imagine what Lenny has said is pre-meditated because he wants a reaction tomorrow.

What he has said he will stand by – I am sure. But he will hope to have manipulated a response.