Martin Canning says Hibs have squad to battle at top end of table
However, if Hamilton manager Martin Canning’s opinion counts for anything, then followers of the Edinburgh club who like to indulge in noble games of chance could do worse than place a wager on Neil Lennon’s players finishing in the top three.
Celtic won the title by 30 points from Aberdeen last term, with Rangers nine adrift of the Dons. The accepted wisdom had it that the latter two would once again battle for the right to be the best of the rest but Canning believes that Hibs are a third force to be reckoned with and can see them replacing one of the ante-post favourites.
“They will be aiming for that and, when you look at the quality and depth of their squad and the size of the support that they’ve got, then there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be challenging at the top end of the league,” he said.
Hamilton will visit at Easter Road on Saturday and Canning, who spent six months there as a player, knows how difficult it can be to cope with the pressure of playing in front of thousands of demanding supporters. However, he contends that Lennon has solved that problem.
“Expectation can weigh heavily on players but Neil has a good belief in there now and a good mindset in the club – they look to be progressing in the right way,” he claimed.
“We spoke in the dressing room this morning about the fact that there is such an expectation on you at big clubs to go and perform.
“What brought it up was Martyn Waghorn and Joe Garner both scoring for Ipswich last night.
“They are both good players – we played against them last year – but sometimes the bigger the club then the greater the pressure it puts on you.
“You need to have players who can go and play at that level and deal with that and Hibs have that now.
“They have big-name players, guys who have played at a high level and I’m sure they can cope with the added pressure that playing for a big club like Hibs brings. They’ve recruited really well, with Steven Whittaker and Anthony Stokes coming back, as well as signing Simon Murray, who played against us last year with Dundee United.
“He was busy then and he’s hit the ground running there now and is scoring goals.”
With Hibs undefeated thus far this season (the meaningless BetFred Cup penalty shootout against Ross County notwithstanding), Canning contends that Lennon has moulded a side in his own image.
“They are; they won the league last season and they’ve carried that momentum through. They work hard, they fight for everything and they’ve got the quality, so it’s a good mix.”
Canning also expressed sympathy for Lennon, who found himself in the spotlight again at Ibrox after responding to ceaseless taunting from the home fans by making some gestures of a non-conciliatory nature towards them when Simon Murray cancelled out Alfredo Morelos’ early opening goal.
“We’ve all had that and it’s almost become part of football that you’re expected to take it as a manager,” he said. “Even as a player, it was similar.
“It just seems to be a part of modern-day football now that if you’re a manager, a coach or a player then you’re expected to take that level of abuse.
“Of course, it’s hard to bite your lip at times and you can understand people reacting to it but, in the job we’re in, you probably can’t react over a certain point.
“It’s not nice, and to be honest, for me or a coach or a player, it’s your family that probably hears it more than you do because you’re so engrossed in the game. It’s almost become accepted as part of football, but it probably shouldn’t be.
“You just need to block it out and get on with the game. I don’t know if it’s got worse.”