Neil Lennon Is Hibs Biggest Asset This Season


Hibernian Football Club have returned to the Scottish Premiership this season and certainly haven’t looked out of place.

Last night they managed to reach the next round of the League Cup after smashing five past Ayr United and the Hibees also recorded a comfortable victory on their first game back in Scotland’s top flight.

While the players have impressed on the pitch thus far, I believe it’s boss Neil Lennon that’s been Hibs top performer so far this summer.

A mixture of first-teamers and youth players (twelve in total) departed Easter Road during preseason. Lennon in return has brought in eight new faces to bolster his squad.

It looks as though the Northern Irishman has done well in the transfer market.

He’s brought experienced duo Steven Whittaker and Anthony Stokes back to the club.

Whittaker has vast experience in European and English Premier Legaue football since he left Hibs in 2007. The Scottish international offers versatility to the squad as he can play on either side as a full-back or even in midfield if needed. Lennon will hope that Whittaker’s maturity will help the younger players within the team as they adapt to life in the Premiership.

Stokes was a Hibernian hero after his outstanding performance in the famous Scottish Cup triumph in 2016. When he’s fully concentrating on his career, Stokes offers an intelligence up-front and goals! Lennon made signing Stokes a priority and will hope the Irish striker now repays that faith. Anthony did bag a brace against the Honest Men and seems to have an affinity with the club.

Goalkeeper Ofir Marciano and defender Efe Ambrose have joined permanently after successful loan spells in the Scottish Championship last term.

Lennon was very impressed with Israeli international keeper Marciano and managed to tie him down to a four year deal. After the win over Thistle, Neil stated:

“He brings composure and class to the position so I’m delighted to get him done on a long-term deal. It is always important to have a good goalkeeper when you the the step up and I think we have that.”

We all know Ambrose from his Celtic days. Yes he’s a bit eccentric but he also offers experience and pace at the back. The Nigerian has fifty-one caps for the Super Eagles and has plenty of winners medals in his pocket.

Danny Swanson comes in from St Johnstone and he has plenty of recent top flight experience. The Saints wanted to keep Swanson but the creative midfielder said a move to Easter Road was too good to turn down:

“The pull of Hibernian was too much for me,”

Hibs gaffer Lennon will be looking to Swanson to provide plenty of ammunition for his forwards and will also want his new man to add goals from midfield. His pinpoint accuracy created the opener for Stokes against Ayr United.

I really can’t tell you much about the Lithuanian duo Vykintas Slivka and Deivydas Matulevičius. 

Midfielder Slivka certainly has pedigree as he has joined from Italian champions Juventus. From what I’ve seen of him he seems to pop up on the right and is capable of getting a goal or two from that position. Also seems able to find a forward pass from deeper positions.

Matulevicius looks to be more of a journeyman forward. His stats from previous clubs suggest he won’t be prolific in Leith. The big man offers more height up top and I can see him being used as a Plan B from Lennon this term.  Opened his account for the Hibees in the rout over Ayr Utd with a nice finish inside a crowed penalty area.

Finally you have Simon Murray.

The twenty-five year old has started his time at Easter Road with a bang, in total he’s already notched up nine goals in his first six outings (baulk coming in League Cup). Murray offers you plenty of hard-work and running in the forward areas. That will be ideal for Stokes and the two look to have already struck up a handy partnership. The fans have already taken to him and it’s easy to see why as he has worked his socks off and been lethal in front of goal.

The fact that so many of these players have fitted in so well and quickly, is testament to the Hibernian manager and his backroom team. They’ve pinpointed where in the team needed improved upon and they look strong now. Losing players like Fraser Fyvie and Jason Cummings would’ve been tough to take but Hibs actually look just as capable now, if not more so.

Lennon also has to get credit for keeping a good core of players at the club that won the Championship last season.

Captain David Gray, Paul Hanlon and Lewis Stevenson have all been there for years and know how the club ticks. People sometimes underestimate what that continuity brings but I guarantee you Neil doesn’t. Those are the players that the youth stars of tomorrow will look up to in training sessions and will learn from the most.

I really like the look of young eighteen year old centre-back Ryan Porteous. He seems to enjoy the art of tackling and doesn’t seem to mind adding a bit of bite to the challenge either. Obviously Hibs have a decent number of centre-backs already at the club so it will be interesting to see if Neil keeps him around first-team training for six months or sends the Scottish U19 star out on loan to get more game time in the Championship.

John McGinn is obviously a stand-out talent. Not many become Scotland internationalists whilst playing in the country’s second tier. But McGinn’s energetic ability and desire caught the eye and he was superb last year. He’s another one who has started this campaign with a bang. Great vision, fine passer of the ball and good with it at his feet too.

It’s clear Lennon loves having a player of McGinn’s quality in his team and by the fact the twenty-two year old hasn’t commented on speculation shows you he’s enjoying life in Scotland’s capital. I think it will take around £5m to get him and probably not until next summer.

Neil Lennon has brought the best out of this squad and you can see that they are now playing with a swagger.

Let’s not forget that Hibs have the most successful manager currently working in Scotland at the moment. He knows the Scottish game inside out and more importantly he knows how to win up here.

His name and reputation brings players to the club and the Hibs fans are fully behind him. The board were convinced by day one and the players respect him as they know he’s been through every experience that they will go through this season.

There’s no doubt that His are on an upward curve at the moment. Leann Dempster is an impressive figurehead who works well with her manager. All the fans are in an optimistic mood & I know a few downright miserable Hibee supporters! Plus the team are playing with a confidence you only get when you have the full support of your gaffer and the club’s faithful supporters.

Most of the current feel-good factor comes down to Neil Lennon and he deserves the credit for getting Hibs back to the top league and back with a style that’s easy on the eye.

Next up is a trip to Ibrox to face Rangers, what better place to cement his and his teams credentials.

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