Neil Lennon's touchline rants win approval of Hibs' Paul Hanlon

Paul Hanlon, the Hibernian captain, says Neil Lennon's wild rants and tantrums on the touchline are proving a constructive source of encouragement as the club re-adapts to life in the top-flight.
Paul Hanlon was Hibs' matchwinner against Ross County. Picture: SNS.Paul Hanlon was Hibs' matchwinner against Ross County. Picture: SNS.
Paul Hanlon was Hibs' matchwinner against Ross County. Picture: SNS.

The former Celtic manager is never far from boiling point during matches and some of his antics and colourful outpourings in the relatively hushed confines of the Global Energy Stadium on Saturday brought smiles to the faces of supporters in the seats behind.

Lennon was first to admit after full-time that he craves a more relaxed, carefree 90 minutes than those recently delivered, with patience tested during three draws leading up to Saturday’s narrow victory.

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But Hanlon, the unlikely matchwinner with his first goal of the season, feels the players are responding positively to the very vocal feedback from the sidelines.

“The gaffer is in a lot better mood tonight than he was after we lost the lead against Motherwell,” he admitted. “We deserved the three points and created the chances. If there was any criticism, he wanted us to make it a bit more comfortable.

“You know he’s always there supporting you. When there’s a battle in a game, he’s kicking every ball with you. It’s good to have that support from the sidelines. He’s over the moon with the three points and he’s as happy for us as we are for each other.

“Sometimes you’ve just got to say ‘yes, I can hear you’, but it’s great. He’s passionate and wants us to win. It drives us on. It can get a bit scary in games at 1-0 up with a team like Ross County putting pressure on, but he’s there to support us.

“You talk to everyone on the pitch, so it’s not just his voice. We have leaders on the pitch as well trying to help each other through the game. The more communication, the better.”

Victory took Hibs from sixth to four in the table, Lennon’s men having lost only once this season. With quality evident right through the squad, there is no question they have the potential to rival the challenge of Rangers and Aberdeen.

For County, who slipped to tenth place, these are worrying times. They didn’t create quite the volume of chances they had in drawing with Partick Thistle a couple of weeks ago, but again paid a price for failing to take several.

Hanlon, though, was enthused by the fluent style of much of Hibs’ play.

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“I think we have the players to suit that sort of passing style,” the 27-year-old stressed. “But, at the same time, we’ve got Simon Murray up front for us who can run the channels well and get us up the pitch.

“It’s a hard league and you play hard teams every week, so you’re not always going to get your own way and play nice football. We need to be able to adapt at times as well.”

It was almost the perfect day for new dad Scott Fox, the County goalkeeper. Almost, but not quite. The result marred a man-of-the-match display on his return to the first team 24 hours after the arrival of baby daughter Harper.

Fox was dropped for two games in the aftermath of a costly moment of hesitancy against Rangers, when Alfredo Morelos was able to nick the ball from him and score.

“You can never be really happy when the team gets beaten but it was good to be back playing. I wanted to rectify the mistake against Rangers and I have had to wait a couple of weeks,” the former Celtic and Partick Thistle goalkeeper said.

“That gives you an edge to try to prove a point. I am big enough and ugly enough to know you need to move on from mistakes. It’s not my first and it won’t be my last.

“I’m strong mentally. If I was bothered about what people say about me I wouldn’t be playing football. Mistakes are going to be highlighted, a bit more with goalkeepers, and mine became an internet sensation. I just wanted to rectify it and move on.”

Arriving for interview, Fox was clutching a teddy bear, as well as the man-of-the-match award. He couldn’t wait to get home to see wife Charlotte and little Harper.

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He is also confident there will soon be happy news on the football front. “No matter if you are performing well, it’s all about results, but I don’t think we’re far away,” he said. “Hibs are a very good team and their keeper made a few saves as well. I don’t think they enjoyed it.