Neil Lennon has criticised the timing of today’s semi-final kick-off but he admits that if it gives Hibernian the benefit of a bigger backing than Aberdeen, he is happy to settle for it.
This weekend’s Hampden head-to-heads have both been scheduled for lunchtime starts and while Lennon believes that has impacted on the Pittodrie side’s ability to shift their ticket allocation, he welcomes any edge it gives his men.
“You are asking them to travel for a 12.15 kick off and I think that is really unfair on the Aberdeen fans. It is a showpiece game. It is just location, I don’t think it’s indifference to the game.
“If there is an advantage, we will take whatever advantage we get, on the pitch or off the pitch. You sense the atmosphere when you’re out there.”
At home at Hampden, the man who has won the Scottish Cup twice as a manager and four times as a player, knows that Aberdeen are a side capable of unsettling him and his players, with players of quality.
That includes Niall McGinn, who failed to make an impact at Celtic but has impressed Lennon with what he has achieved since. “He’s had a good time at Aberdeen. I actually enquired about him when I was at Bolton. Derek [McInnes] wouldn’t have any of it so we left it at that. He’s done well for club and country, scored in the Euros. He’s been an important player for Michael [O’Neill] at times and I know it didn’t work out for him at Celtic but he’s gone on to carve out a very good career for himself. I think he’s one of Aberdeen’s better players and he’ll be a real threat, I’m sure.”
Back in the top flight and with the pressure off, Lennon is relishing the possibility of defending the cup, but he is already looking ahead to next season as well. “I would like to do a bit of additional work to the squad. I think I have a good core of players who could comfortably deal with the Premiership and the majority of the teams they will come up against. But I think there is one or two areas where I need to get better quality in if we are going to be consistent at that level next year. This is an acid test for the players. We’re playing the team who are second in the table, who are well clear of Rangers. They have been to a cup final already and I think they have improved each year under Derek. So it’s a real good test for us.”