Neil Lennon listened as a list of names was read out to him. They were all players who have been linked to Hibernian in recent days. The manager smiled and then admitted to an active interest in two of them. Other than that he was giving little away.
“We are pursuing a number of players and it’s come out in Israel that Ofir Marciano is one of them. I’m not going to deny that. As for some of the other names mentioned it’s purely speculation. We are hopeful of bringing Marciano in on loan, possibly at the end of the week and if not at the start of next. If we can get that one over the line we’d be delighted.”
The 26-year-old keeper was most recently with Royal Mouscron in the Belgian League but has returned to FC Ashdod. Lennon has worked with his agent before and is hopeful a deal can be formalised in the next few days.
“With regards to Liam Henderson, we’ve made a call and that’s it.” He added that they were still awaiting a response from Celtic. “Brendan [Rodgers] will want to assess his squad so I can’t speculate what will happen there. Anyway, I don’t think the squad here needs major surgery. If I could add three more players I would be happy. It doesn’t need much work and I’ve been delighted with what I’ve seen so far.”
But that early promise will not be allowed to fuel wild predictions. While the bookies have made the Easter Road club favourites to win the Championship at the third time of trying and Lennon has made no secret of his desire to see his side replicate the achievements of city rivals Hearts, who took an early hold of proceedings when they were in the second tier two seasons ago and never let go as they romped to the title and promotion, he refused to say his men will dominate.
“It was seamless really,” he said of Hearts’ charge. “They had one season, came back [into the Premiership], and then had another good season the next year. Hibs fans might not like this but I think that is a good marker for how to deal with the Championship.”
But asked if he thought the squad could emulate that, he grinned, too streetwise to ignore the headlines such a bold assertion would undoubtedly herald.
“I am not going to say that. I am still getting to know the players so I don’t really know what they are capable of although they showed plenty in Brondby for sure. But that would be making too optimistic a prediction.”
The European games have given them a grounding, while friendlies, including tomorrow’s trip to Shrewsbury, are about fine-tuning, but it is only when the league games get underway that he will be able to really gauge the calibre of the men he inherited.
“I think there is a good group there but a lot of inexperience as well. And that is maybe where myself and Gary [Parker, his assistant] come in, we have been the course and the distance before. We have won championships and we need to pass that on to the players.
“Whether we are favourites or not, the priority is to win promotion back to the SPFL. I see Dundee United as strong contenders, Falkirk too given the season they had last year and there may be a surprise in the offing.”
Falkirk ended Hibs’ league season last term, curtailing their progress in the play-offs. This term they provide the opposition on the opening day.
“Look, there will be a wee bit of needle there, because we have had good games with them but we need to believe that we can go there and win,” said defender Darren McGregor. “They will be up there challenging so it will be good to put down a marker but to say that the outcome of that game will have a say in what happens in May next year would be premature. Listen, we will go there wanting to win but they will be wanting to put down a marker as well.
“This season, I think it’s there for us. You could argue it maybe should have been last season but we faltered at the last step. What we need to do is work hard. The application, whether it’s at home to Raith or away to Raith, has to be spot on and the mindset needs to be the same. That’s the thing we’ve learned from the past, that you need to be 100 per cent all the time.”
That includes the build up matches, with maximum effort required against Shrewsbury tomorrow. “It’s all about momentum, the gaffer won’t let us go to Shrewsbury and think ‘we can’t quite get up for this, we don’t fancy it’. That’s not going to happen or there will be guys getting dropped and guys getting put in their place.
“We know exactly what he expects. From day one he came in and made it abundantly clear the standards he sets as a manager.
“As a player, I watched him quite a lot and I saw his tenacity, and I knew exactly the kind of person he would be. That has transferred into management. He doesn’t beat around the bush.”