Colin Calderwood's words of support for Neil Lennon this week were more than just lip service. It is the standard diplomatic procedure for members of the managerial fraternity to praise each other, especially when their teams are about to meet, but the Hibernian manager's assessment of his Celtic counterpart was heartfelt.
As a player, for seven successful years with Celtic and also briefly under Calderwood at Nottingham Forest, Lennon was combative and committed. As a manager, he displays the same qualities - qualities which the Hibernian team are sadly lacking at present.
"He was a winner on the pitch and he's intense," Calderwood said of Lennon, who takes his table-topping team to Easter Road for today's lunchtime kick-off in the SPL. "He's certainly locked into the games, you can see that, and it's a terrific level, really top, top level, that he's got his first manager's job at.
"It's the intensity and the quality of the man that has led him to get the job in the first place. And those qualities shouldn't change too much from what led him to be the player he was and the influence he had. Sometimes you've got to do things for your team, and he stands his ground for his club, which no-one should have any problem with at all."
While Lennon stands his ground for his club, what Calderwood has a problem with is the failure of many of his own players to stand their ground for theirs. And it is not a new problem either.
John Hughes, Calderwood's predecessor, also recognised the need for greater grit, above all in central midfield, Lennon's position. But he failed to come up with a satisfactory answer to the problem.
Edwin de Graaf was signed in the summer and has not been impressive. Liam Miller, who is suspended today, has underperformed for much of the season. And Kevin McBride, signed by Hughes after the two had worked together at Falkirk, has faded from the picture.
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Playing Sol Bamba in a holding midfield role was a possible solution, but Hughes preferred to utilise the Ivorian's strength at centre-back. Now Bamba has gone to Leicester, Calderwood does not have that question to address.
Instead, he has to find a way to get his team to play with greater self- belief, which is no easy task given they are now just four points ahead of bottom club Hamilton. At least they kept a clean sheet in their Scottish Cup match against Ayr a week ago, but that was little consolation given their failure to score, which means they must visit Somerset Park for a replay on Tuesday night.
After being favourites for that match, Hibs may just benefit today from not being expected to do anything against the league leaders. "Obviously we've become the underdogs in the game, and if there is an advantage in that then we've got to use that," Calderwood added."We've still got to chase the game. We've got to be in it. We've got to try and score an open goal. So a completely different end of the spectrum, really (compared to the Ayr game].
"We've got to score a goal and perform better. As a group we weren't really at our right level against Ayr. One or two had poor games, one or two very poor, and one or two good. It wasn't as cohesive as we would have liked and we never scored with the limited opportunities that we had, although we probably should have. It was made very awkward and there were some individual mistakes. But we gave a level of performance that wasn't far away from the Hearts and Dundee United games. We weren't on the front foot as much as we'd have liked. We didn't show any of our true quality."
Having lost both Bamba and full-back Jonathan Grounds, whose loan period from Middlesbrough has ended, Hibs look in desperate need of fresh blood "We've made quite significant progress in terms of trying to freshen up and bring a couple in," added Calderwood.
"It's taking three steps forward and one step back. From when we went out training to when we got back in this morning we hit another stumbling block, so we're trying to overcome that. I was hopeful we might have something for the weekend. We'll certainly try to have something done, but then will he play in the game? Probably not now."
The recent return from long-term injury of striker Darryl Duffy and midfielder Merouane Zemmama boosted Hibs' morale, but Calderwood warned against regarding those two as if they were new signings. "People who join in the season like Zemmama and Duffy are going to have a plateau and a drop down in performance," he said.
"Adrenaline carries you through the first couple of games and then you go out and there might be nothing in the legs. We've got to be careful. I can't see them going game after game in this period because I don't think we'd get the level of performance we require and I don't think it would be particularly fair to them."