Efe Ambrose: Avoid Neil Lennon when you’re not playing well’

Efe Ambrose promotes the GameChanger appeal to keep rough sleepers warm this winter. Picture: SNS.
Efe Ambrose promotes the GameChanger appeal to keep rough sleepers warm this winter. Picture: SNS.
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Efe Ambrose remains good friends with many at Celtic and says that the club will always have a place in his heart.

The former Parkhead defender is also happy to openly express his admiration for the men who have pieced together a record-breaking 67-game unbeaten run and won four trophies in a row on 
domestic duty.

But that all pales when he considers his loyalty to his current manager and the desire he has to please the Easter Road fans.

It was Hibernian manager Neil Lennon, right, in his previous incarnation at Parkhead, who initially brought him to this country and when he expressed an interest in signing him up for the Leith club, the Nigerian said he found it impossible to refuse, saying Lennon
brings the best out of him.

“He knows my ability,” said Ambrose. “He brought me to this country from Israel and I played with him three years before he left and I had no choice [when he came calling for Hibs] but to say yes because I knew he would challenge me.

“When you play under Lennon you have to be at your best in every game, at training, discipline wise, everything you have to be at your best. He does not tolerate nonsense. When you are training you are training and when you are playing, you have to play at your best because when the team is not doing well, you look at the bench and at his face and think of seeing it again in the dressing room and you think twice about what are you doing and what you are going to face.

“That’s his mentality for every game, to win every game. That’s what he is trying to put into the team and we know that. It’s his style of playing and managing; he won’t change, he is still Neil Lennon. That helps me, the squad, everybody, because we know the game we play and you have to be at your best. If not you have him to contend with.”

The perfect illustration of that came in the past week, after a fumbled throw-in against Partick Thistle, invited his manager’s disapproval. Describing his boss as “hard to predict” and “hard to please”, he said he had been instructed by Lennon to ditch the gloves, garnering little sympathy for his freezing digits.

“Being with one of the best managers in the league, playing with some of the best players in the league, it’s a good environment, a good squad and I think it can improve you and make you better playing consistently. Getting game time is the most important thing right now. If you are not playing you cannot test yourself.”

The challenges are coming thick and fast. In the space of a week, Hibs will face the top three teams in the country, with Rangers travelling east on Wednesday, before the Leith side head to Pittodrie next weekend. But first they have to focus on Celtic.

“We are just going to try to see what we can get out of the game but the mentality is a winning mentality and we are playing at home with the fans and everything. We owe the fans something and we know this game is going to be an important game for us in the league because we know Aberdeen and Rangers are coming next so that is the most important thing right now, we don’t want to lose the game.

“If we break their run on Sundaywe will deserve it because I know it will not be easy, we will have to earn it. We will have to work hard for it and run for it because we are playing against Celtic, in the kind of form they are in and where they are in the league. Despite their form in Europe, which everyone knows is not good enough, they are still Celtic. We know who they are and how dangerous they are and how they can keep possession of the ball and make teams run and chase, we know they can hurt teams.”

Having come close to an upset in the first league meeting, ultimately settling for a draw, Hibs came up short in the League Cup meeting.

“We have played them twice and hopefully we have learned from our mistakes in those games and we will work hard to see if we can correct those mistakes and try to score goals against them,” said Ambrose. “But, first we have to do the defensive side of the game. If we can do that we can take Celtic to the line and give them a good game.”