Sitting down with Neil Lennon
With the news that Neil Lennon has signed a new Hibs contact, extending his stay at Easter Road until 2020, ENRG Sport are pleased to release an exclusive interview from March this year with the former Northern Ireland international.
Words by David Ronney.
Neil Lennon’s time in Scotland can certainly be regarded as a successful one. Despite the controversy he has faced over the years during his playing and managerial days, on the football scene Lennon has won eight league titles, two of which as a manager. Last season he opened a new chapter in his career, returning to Scottish football once more as he joined Hibernian.
The Northern Irishman was tasked with bringing promotion to the Easter Road club, which he achieved by winning the Scottish Championship in his first season, as well as taking the the club to a Scottish Cup semi-final. Now Lennon faces the challenge of not only avoiding relegation but making a charge up the Premiership table to clinch European football.
Lennon was appointed Hibs coach in June 2016, just weeks after the club won the Scottish Cup for the first time in 114 years.
Here, Lennon explains why he decided to take up the offer of the Hibs job, despite the potential interest of English clubs.
“The opportunity came up off the back of the cup win”, he said. “I thought there was a great chance of getting promotion here and doing something with the club. So far it’s going okay and we’ve done nothing yet but I’m really happy here. I’m really enjoying what I’m doing.”
Before joining Hibs, and after much success with Celtic as a manager, Lennon sought a new challenge down in England as he became the head coach of Bolton Wanderers in October 2014.
He enjoyed initial success with the Championship club, with the highest point arguably taking the club to a FA Cup replay against Liverpool, eventually losing 2-1, as well as steering the club away from relegation.
Things for Lennon went downhill in his second season and the team suffered poor spells of form. With the club suffering financially, he decided to leave Bolton by mutual consent in March 2016. Lennon reflected on his time at the club stating “it was difficult for many reasons.”
He added: “The first season was okay but then I had the cut of the wage bill. I had no real support to bring in the players. Anyway, I thought that I had to get myself going again.”
Former Hibs goalkeeper, Jim McArthur, who played with the likes of George Best during his time at the club in the late 1970s, explained that Lennon has done well at Easter Road so far.
“Hibs in previous seasons had spells where they went a few games where they didn’t come away with anything but bad results” he said. They had a long run under Stubbs where they didn’t win and that cost them. Neil’s made sure that if they go into a bad run or have a bad result they respond quickly and get out of it. I can’t complain.”
Now, with the backing of the board and the security of a long term contract, Lennon can really start to build something at Hibs. Already he has shown an interest in developing youth players, with the likes of Fraser Murray and Ryan Porteous breaking into the first team squad this season.
And while it seems that Lennon has been around Scottish football for so long, he is quick to admit that he still has a long way to go.
“I am still young”, he says. “And I’m still learning.”