Why Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo Deserves His Five Game Ban

I have the upmost respect for Cristiano Ronaldo.

I don’t doubt he’s currently the best player in the world and has immense talent.

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has managed him properly in the last twelve months and that will ensure the Portuguese superstar remains on top of his game for longer.

Unfortunately I can’t find any excuses for the forward when it comes to his actions after he was sent off against FC Barcelona during the Supercopa de Espana last weekend.

Ronaldo came off the bench to help Real gain a 3-1 win over their bitter rivals. The maestro scored a superb goal and then got booked by taking his top off to celebrate. As an experienced pro, Cristiano knew he’d be booked for that action. Although I’d be tempted to show off my body if it looked like that, it really was a silly booking.

He then received his second yellow card for what the referee deemed a dive inside the Barca penalty area. I think it was the wrong interpretation and think Real may have won an appeal for that had they had the chance to.

Ronaldo instantly reacted by moaning and then giving the ref a shove.

Now it wasn’t an MMA move or an overly violent response but what the world class attacker did was break one cardinal rule in football and that is that a footballer doesn’t touch one of the refereeing officials.

The game will descend into anarchy if our associations don’t protect the referee and his team. As fans we have to also acknowledge that we have to support our governing bodies when it comes to punishing players when they place their hands on the officials.

The Spanish FA decided to hand the forward a five game ban, starting with the return leg against Barcelona.

We have to remember that football is a game adored by young kids throughout the world and they’ll be influenced by what Ronaldo does on the pitch. That’s great when he scores screamers or does a world class piece of skill. But when he does something like push a ref then he needs to accept that the Spanish FA  will show a no tolerance approach as they don’t want to see that kind of behaviour from younger players.

Zidane clearly disagrees:

“I’m not going to get involved with the referees but, after what happened, to think that he’ll not play for five games, makes you think that something isn’t right. It’s too long for him.”

Now Zizou is clearly looking out for his player but on this occasion I strongly disagree with the French legend. It would have been better had Real and Ronaldo just kept quiet and accepted the punishment.

It actually won’t be such a bad thing for the forward or his club. It will give the player an extra break to recover from his great exploits from last year and it will give others a chance to shine for Los Blancos. 

Cristiano Ronaldo will then return and will no doubt have another fantastic season.

As I said, I think the Portuguese internationalist is a wonderful talent but he needs to accept his responsibilities and take his medicine when it relates to this case!

Diego Costa Has Made His Bed At Chelsea… Don’t Feel Sorry For Him!

In June, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte sent a text to top goalscorer Diego Costa telling the Spanish international he was no longer in Chelsea’s plans.

Costa has come out and his side of the story to the Daily Mail.

Diego offers the view that he was happy with the Blues and stated ‘I didn’t want to leave’ but that doesn’t quite fit the narrative that we’ve seen since his arrival in the summer of 2014.

He wanted to go back to Atletico Madrid after the end of his second season and then he was nearly lured to China in a big move back in January. His ill feeling with Conte seems to stem from that particular saga.

Now maybe the aggressive striker’s representatives wanted to use the interest from the Chinese Super League as leverage when discussing a new deal with the Blues hierarchy. If that were the case then it specularly backfired as Costa became distracted and a problem on the training ground.

The Chelsea negotiating team were instructed to break off any Costa contract talks and they never resumed.

Conte was smart and knew he had to eek more out of his forward and while the second half of the season wasn’t as fruitful as the first half was for the hitman, he still scored twenty Premier League goals and helped the club to the league title.

But as Diego became the orchestrator of the title winning party, Conte was ready to deliver the body blow that he knew was coming since January.

Now I don’t agree with the idea of sending a player a text to tell him he wasn’t wanted. I think Costa at least deserved a phone call and an explanation. Had he received it, I doubt he could really moan but this is Costa we are talking about and he can moan about anything it seems.

Now the twenty-eight year old forward just wants to be set free and once again he’s signalled his intention to re-join Atletico.

There’s a few problems with that.

Firstly, Chelsea won’t just set him ‘free’. They will want a good price for the strong, powerful and proven goalscorer. They’ll want at least £40m for someone possibly heading into their peak years. That’s actually quite a low price in this current market but they’ll want to relieve themselves of the massive headache that is Diego Costa.

The other issue is that Costa’s beloved Atletico can’t actually sign players during this window as they’ve received a transfer ban from FIFA. They cannot register new players until January 2018. So they aren’t in any rush to conclude a deal this summer unless another team shows interest and even then the forward himself will then have to show a similar interest in joining the potential suitor.

The Brazilian born player has returned to his homeland and is currently training alone in Brazil while staying with his parents.

He feels that the club have treated him terribly and he doesn’t want to return just to train with the reserves. That has led to Chelsea fining him repeatedly as he hasn’t returned for preseason.

I’m not sure we can feel sorry for Diego in this instance, he’s even talking about taking legal action.
If I were his lawyer I’d have advised him not to take any interviews and not to post silly social media videos on a jet ski with a dog!

In the interview Costa basically slags off his manager. He says Conte ‘lacks charisma’ and after praising Antonio for being a ‘great coach’ he the stated he doesn’t respect him as a man and that he’s very cold.

Diego also went on to say that specific players contact him regularly and tell him that he’s missed at Stamford Bridge.

To make these comments public could be seen as bringing the club into disrepute and he might have broken certain confidentially clauses that will be in his contract. Let’s not forget that Chelsea Chairman Bruce Buck is also a bonafide lawyer!

As for the jet ski video, it may be humorous but it’s not exactly portraying the image of a hard done by footballer is it?

Now I am not a huge fan of players being banished from the first team and sent out to train by themselves but I have no problem with them being sent to train with the reserves or the youngsters.

Why should it be an issue for Costa?

He will still get a weekly wage of £150,000. He also gets the chance to improve younger players and give something back to the club. He can change the situation and make it a positive and then you’ll be more attractive to a buyer.

All in all, it’s very hard to give a flying fart about a man who can afford to sit at home and not pick up  your wage. Especially when he’s been trying to engineer a move away for quite some time now.

I love Diego Costa the footballer. He’s a warrior and will give his all on the pitch, sometimes he gives too much. But in this situation I think he’s played the wrong hand because I can’t see many thinking he’s a victim in all this!

Lukaku Already Showing His Worth At Man United

Manchester United looked like a really strong side as they brushed aside West Ham United in their opening Premier League game of the season.

They dictated the pace of the game and for the most part controlled the match with heavy spells of  possession.

But while the same could be said last season, too many times Man Utd lacked the killer instinct to kill games off and they drew far too many times at Old Trafford.

It was a different story today as new £75m man Romelu Lukaku lead the line almost perfectly and was the difference maker as the Red Devils ran out 4-0 winners.

The forward managed to grab a superb brace, which when added to his goal against Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup takes his tally to three in his first two games in a Manchester United jersey.

United’s new number nine had the pace that would often terrorise the Hammers defence, especially with his smart runs in behind the back four. Romelu’s opening strike was all about his intelligent run that got him away from his marker, it was spotted by Marcus Rashford and Lukaku then despatched the ball viciously past Joe Hart.

The hitman’s second goal was a bullet header from an inch perfect cross from Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The big Belgian continually won aerial contests (six in total) against a strong West Ham defence. It shows that Man United shouldn’t miss Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s physicality up top too much.

Romelu seems to have settled in quickly with his new teammates and worked well as the team’s focal point. He also looks to have understood what Jose Mourinho’s wants from him and that’s very important for any Man Utd player, especially a new one!

Lukaku’s all round game, his determination to win his individual battles and make good runs for his teammates shows you that the striker is determined to succeed at Old Trafford.

A few have questioned whether or not the twenty-four year old could do well at one of Europe’s powerhouses. He obviously proved himself capable in England’s top flight during his time at Everton but could he make that big step up?

Well I think his first couple of outings have shown us that he has the confidence and importantly the ability to get goals and that’s where strikers earn their crust. He already looks like a top star for his Man Utd team.

Scoring these early goals will excite the fans at Old Trafford and it will give the new man a lot of confidence.

I don’t doubt, if he stays clear of injuries, that Romelu Lukaku will bang in plenty of goals for the ‘Red Devils’ this season and will be amongst the top three goalscorers in the Premier League this term!

Should Liverpool Move For Nice Midfielder Jean Michael Seri?

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp might have to make more moves in the transfer market before it shuts at the end of the month.

We already know that the defence still needs to be strengthened, the opening weekend 3-3 draw with Watford hammered the point home. I’d expect the club to launch another mover for Southampton’s Virgil  van Dijk.

At least the Burnley draw also highlighted that Liverpool are extremely strong in the forward positions.

But with star man Philippe Coutinho doing all he can to leave the club, Lucas Leiva already departing and Adam Lallana missing the next three months due to a thigh injury, it could be the midfield that Klopp also has to bolster before August is out.

The Reds have targeted RB Leipzig middleman Naby Keita all summer but the Budesliga runners-up want the Guinean international for their first venture into the Champions League. Leipzig director Ralf Rangnick has since stated Keita has an option to leave the German club next season.

Now the problem is that I’m not sure Liverpool can wait until next season before reinforcing their engine room as they too have the prospect of Champions League football on the horizon.

With that in mind I think the Merseyside giants should look at Nice midfielder Jean Michael Seri.

The Ivorian can play anywhere in the midfield and had a terrific season last year as he helped Les Aiglons to an historic third place finish in Ligue 1.

He’s probably not as good in his defensive work as Keita would be but they recorded similar stats last term when it came to helping their team’s attackers.

Seri scored seven times and made nine assists in the French top flight during the 2016-17 campaign. his eye for a key pass or through ball is highly impressive. Defensively he made around 1.1 tackles per Ligue 1 appearances and averaged one interception per game too.

Once described as the ‘African Xavi‘ he’s obviously good at retaining the ball. During Nice’s important year last term Seri managed to top 89% in his average passing success rate stats. That kind of recycling of the ball and keeping it moving in the middle of the park will be right up Klopp’s street.

Jean Micheal is a dynamic midfielder and could be the man that bursts forward whenever Liverpool need a midfielder further up the pitch. He could be the next Ligue 1 performer that takes the English Premier League by storm.

Another major factor that could catch Liverpool’s attention is the fact that the international has reportedly got €40m release clause in his contract. That’s about half what the Red’s were willing to pay Leipzig for Keita’s services.

With FC Barcelona and Arsenal rumoured to be interested in Jean Michael Seri, I’d advise Jurgen Klopp and his Liverpool board to move now if they are indeed interested in bringing the African to Anfield.

Conte Needs To Be More Positive At Chelsea Or He’ll Suffer Jose’s Fate

Dark clouds seem to be gathering over Stamford Bridge once again.

Chelsea are the current Premier League champions and looked unstoppable at times last season.

But alas this summer hasn’t been as harmonious as the champs would’ve wanted. Unwanted distractions have continually reared their ugly heads.

People have speculated that manager Antonio Conte is unhappy at the club and isn’t committed to staying in London. His new contract only seemed to ease fears for all of five minutes.

The Italian is clearly disgruntled by the club’s transfer activity this season.

During a Sky Sports interview you could see the Blues boss didn’t want to sell Nemanja Matic and certainly didn’t want to lose him to a title rival:

“Matic knows very well what I think about him,” 

“The importance for me about this player, who is a really good player, a top player, very important for our team, but sometimes you must accept this crazy transfer market.”

While I can understand the frustration in losing Matic to Man United, I think we should remember that Chelsea have still spent big this summer. £70m man Alvaro Morata has came in to get the goals, Antonio Rudgier joined to shore up the defence at a cost of £29m and exciting dynamic midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko arrived in a £40m deal from AS Monaco.

Conte has also had a summer full of questions about last season’s top goalscorer Diego Costa. In June the Italian told Costa he was no longer wanted at Stamford Bridge and the Spaniard has been absent from training ever since.

Morata was brought in from Real Madrid to replace Costa but the problem is that Diego seems intent on holding out for a move to Atletico Madrid and that will only happen in January (at the earliest) due to a transfer ban being placed on the La Liga side. So Diego Costa’s shadow still lurks over Chelsea at the moment and that clearly frustrate’s Antonio, who seems to bristle whenever he hears his striker’s name during a press conference!

Interestingly Antonio Conte said this during preseason:

“We know the difficulty of the next season and for sure we want to avoid the Mourinho season with Chelsea. Two years ago the team ended the league in 10th place and we want to try to avoid this.” 

Yet at the moment I’d argue that Conte is going down a similar path that Jose Mourinho went down during the 2015-16 season.

During that ultimately embarrassing campaign Jose was far too negative and he kept looking for conflict. That then caused problems for the whole club and the players were under too much pressure.

Today the Premier League champions lost their opening game of the season at home to Burnley.

The Blues were three down at half-time and were also down to ten men after captain Gary Cahill got himself sent off.

Chelsea did manage to pull two goals back in the second half but it wasn’t enough to get anything from the game. They were’t helped when experienced midfielder Cesc Fabregas saw a second yellow and he too was sent for an early bath.

After the game Chelsea gaffer Conte correctly stated that his side lost their composure and that sent them into a tailspin.

But the manager needs to realise that he’s one man who can now help his team.

He needs to relax and not be as negative in the press. I understand he still wants more new recruits before the transfer window shuts but he cannot do his current crop down or go into a public battle with the club’s board.

Last season Antonio Conte reacted well to adversity. After his side lost 3-0 to rivals Arsenal last term, Conte rejigged his formation and got the best from his side, that was the catalyst that saw his team go on a run to the league title.

The Italian has to dig deep once again and get his players believing in themselves and ready to fight in their bid to retain their Premier League crown!

Coutinho Doing All He Can To Force Liverpool’s Hand

It looks as though the lure of FC Barcelona is too much for Philippe Coutinho and various news outlets are reporting that the Brazilian maestro has now handed in a transfer request.

Liverpool have a decision to make… Do they keep an unhappy player or do they sell their star man?

The club have reacted by initially turning down his request but playmaker is certainly doing his upmost to force his current employers hand as the dirt seems to being dished out now.

If the transfer request wasn’t enough, he did it mere hours after the club stated that he wasn’t for sale. Doing this so soon after that public statement makes the club look bad.

The red half of Merseyside will now be questioning their number ten’s current injury situation. He’s going to miss the first game of the season due to a back injury. Such injuries are hard to diagnose or decide how bad they actually are. A lot of it can be dictated to by the player and we now know the player wants out and probably won’t want to play again for Liverpool incase of injury and/or being cup-tied in the Champions League. 

You then have to ask how the news is getting continually leaked to the press. It seems to be from the player side, in the form of a close family member of Coutinho’s (according to Sky).

That same family member has stated that the forward has issues with Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.

It’s my belief that this is a major ploy from the Brazilian to get what he wants.

Coutinho, his family members, his representatives and Barca aren’t stupid. They’ll know that to stand the best chance of pushing through a transfer then Philippe now has to make it almost impossible for him to stay at Anfield.

Now he’s not going to go after the club’s fans, so instead he makes it about himself and the boss (who is universally loved at Anfield). Having digs at Klopp, will infuriate a great deal of the support and they’ll no doubt want rid of him.

It’s a real shame if Coutinho is speaking through his family and airing his dirty laundry in public. He was struggling to adapt in European football before his move to Liverpool, so without doubt he owes the club. Slagging off Klopp is extremely disrespectful and will leave fans feeling used and bitter.

No player is bigger than the football club and Liverpool know that more than most.

They wouldn’t have came into this transfer window thinking about selling Coutinho  but the Neymar transfer has had a knock on effect. It has given Barcelona plenty of cash and they seem determined to get their man in Coutinho.

For me, I’d tell Coutinho and Barcelona that he can go if they offer £120m and that has to be paid in full or in instalments, not in clauses or bonuses.

I understand that South American players see Spain’s big two as dream destinations but I think Philippe Coutinho needs to show Liverpool more respect.

By all means hand in your transfer request but stop with all the unprofessional bullshit that sullies your reputation and ruins what bond you had with the Liverpool support.

Three British Left-Backs Who Could Replace Danny Rose If Spurs Sell

So it seems that Danny Rose might be unsettled with life at Tottenham Hotspur

The Premier League runners-up haven’t signed anyone yet and in an interview with The Sun, Rose has intimated that he’s worth more than his reported £65k a week wage:

“One thing is for sure — I know my worth and I will make sure I get what I am worth.”

“I am not playing as well as I have done not to get paid what I think I am worth.”

If I were the Spurs board and manager I’d view those comments as a warning that the left-back is ready to demand a move away if he isn’t offered a deal that considerably betters his current wage. He’ll have no doubt watched on as his former teammate, right-back Kyle Walker, left in a megabucks transfer to Manchester City earlier in the transfer window. 

One issue for the England international is that he has four years left to run on his current contract and Spurs are a notoriously hard team to negotiate with unless it’s also in their best interests. 

Rose will have admirers, with Manchester United and champions Chelsea thought to be extremely keen on the England international. 

So let’s say Spurs let Rose go, who could they replace him with? 

Well the transfer model at the Lilywhites seems to suggest that Mauricio Pochettino prefers bringing in talented British players. 

With that in mind I’ve selected three British left-backs that could catch the Argentine’s eye.

LUKE SHAW: 

If Man United do approach the North London side regarding their current left-back then maybe Spurs could get Luke Shaw in as part of the deal.

Shaw’s career has stalled at United due to injuries and concerns about his attitude and fitness. Yet it was under Pochettino that a teenage Shaw first flourished at Southampton. Mauricio was always full of praise of Luke during their time working together.

A reunion might just see Shaw return to form. He’s clearly in a rut at Man Utd and he’s struggling to gain Jose Mourinho’s trust. A move to Tottenham could take a burden off the twenty-two year old’s shoulders and see him back performing as one of the Premier League’s best full-backs.

Pochettino may now have his question marks regarding Shaw’s fitness, he’s only made sixteen league appearances in the last two seasons.

Plus I’d imagine the player would have to take a pay-cut to head down south. He’s reportedly on £130k a week at Old Trafford and that’s double what Rose is currently on. It would make more sense to give Rose a wage increase rather than pay over the odds for Shaw.

But if Luke were to take a big cut in wages then maybe a deal could be done!

RYAN BERTRAND: 

Bertrand was the left-back brought in to replace Shaw at Southampton and he’s done fantastically well at St Mary’s.

A consistently good performer, Bertrand is equally adept at defending as he is at going forward.

Last term he made twenty-eight appearances in the Premier League, scoring twice and assisting four times for the Saints. Defensively he averaged around 1.3 tackles per game and made about 1.6 interceptions.

At twenty-eight he has plenty of experience and is reaching his peak years. Currently vies with Rose for an England starting spot.

Would definitely be seen as a like for like replacement if he were to join Spurs in place of Danny Rose.

The price of the transfer fee plus his wages could be a stumbling block. Southampton will probably want a similar fee to the one Spurs would command for Rose and the player himself would then want a very good packet.

KIERAN TIERNEY:

Celtic’s young left-back Kieran Tierney could be another option that Pochettino would consider if he has to look for another left-sided full-back.

At just twenty years of age, Tierney seems to have the footballing world at his feet.

As I’ve already stated, the Spurs manager isn’t afraid to give youngsters a chance (as he did with Shaw). Pochettino would probably view Tierney as an ideal signing as he could help mould the player into another fine star within the Tottenham ranks.

He’s a strong tackler and well disciplined at sticking to his defensive duties. As each game passes he’s becoming ever more confident, especially when going forward. Scored a cracker this week in the Scottish League Cup and shows good skill when he has the ball at his feet.

Strolled through the Scottish competition last term and didn’t look overawed in the Champions League. He’s already made over eighty appearances for the Celtic first-team, not bad at all for one so young.

Would probably have the cheaper price tag out of the three and he wouldn’t demand as much in wages either.

An issue could be persuading him to leave his beloved Celtic so soon into his career.

Now if I were a betting man, I would stick my money on Danny Rose staying at Spurs. I don’t think they are in the mood to sell the English international, unless they get a bigger fee than the £50m plus they got for Kyle Walker. I think it would take a bid of £60m just to get Spurs to the negotiating table. 

I’m keen to see what the Tottenham Hotspur board do next. Can they really offer Rose a new deal after such a public outburst? That could lead to others moaning to the press in the view of holding the club to ransom. But if they don’t offer Danny a new deal then do they risk having a severely unhappy player within the pool that could continually speak out against the club.

I’ll watch on in interest! 

Predicting The 2017-18 Premier League Final Table

Yet again I’ve decided to predict the final standings for the up and coming English Premier League season.

I should warn you that I have varying success when it comes to these predictions. In August 2014 I predicted that Leicester City would end the season in the relegation zone, they obviously went on to win the Premier League that year (in fairness to me I doubt many predicted that one!).

So here goes with this year’s predictions:

  1. Manchester City
  2. Manchester United
  3. Chelsea
  4. Liverpool
  5. Arsenal
  6. Tottenham Hotspur
  7. Everton
  8. West Ham United
  9. Southampton
  10. Leicester City
  11. AFC Bournemouth
  12. Crystal Palace
  13. West Bromwich Albion
  14. Newcastle United
  15. Watford
  16. Stoke City
  17. Burnley
  18. Swansea City
  19. Brighton & Hove Albion
  20. Huddersfield Town

Please feel free to leave your predictions in the comment section below and good luck to whatever team you support!

Mohammed Elneny Set To Remain At Arsenal

Egypt midfielder Mohamed Elneny has rejected the offer of a move to Leicester City, insisting that his future lies with Arsenal. Following Arsenal’s win over Chelsea in the 2017 Community Shield match at Wembley, he told reporters: “I am staying at Arsenal this season.”

The news comes as a surprise to both fans and bookmakers, after Arsenal had accepted a £10 million bid for the player last month. The August transfer window always provides plenty of speculation, and has gamblers flocking to sites such as www.onlinecasinokung.com to check the latest odds on player moves. Till Elneny’s surprising comments, a move to the Foxes seemed almost inevitable, but now, the odds have lengthened considerably.

Limited Opportunities

Elneny joined The Gunners in a £5 million move from Basel in January 2016, although he later told DMC that he was signed almost by accident. Arsenal’s scouts actually had their sights set on Swiss international Fabian Schar at the time, and were close to signing him. However, during repeated visits, they noticed Elneny’s strong performances and decided to sign him instead. Schar went on to play for Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga.

Since joining the North London club, though, Elneny has found it difficult to break into the first team. This is, perhaps, unsurprising, when he is competing with the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin and Granit Xhaka for a place in the starting XI.

In fact, he made only eight starts in the 2016 season, and featured in a further six matches, prompting widespread rumours that he would be seeking to advance his career elsewhere.

Staying Put

As such, the offer and acceptance of a deal with Leicester came as very little surprise to anyone. But Elneny seems determined to stick with Arsenal and cement a place in their midfield for 2017. He got off on the right foot, in as much as he was on the field for the entire 90 minutes of the Community Shield match, but even in this, cynics would be quick to point out that it might have been a different story if the injured Aaron Ramsey had been available.

Leicester City boss Craig Shakespeare has declined to comment on the Elneny situation. Meanwhile, back in London, Arsene Wenger has made no secret of the fact that he is open to offers on a number of his players, Elneny included. So despite the fact that the Egyptian star has three years left on his contract and he has stated a desire to remain, there is every likelihood of further approaches.

A Glowing CV

Elneny started his professional career at El Mokawloon in 2010 at the age of 18. Less than three years later, he had moved to FC Basel, where he helped them win the 2013/14 Super League Championship.

He has also made 50 appearances for the Egypt national team since making his debut in 2011, scoring four goals, the most memorable being against Chad in a crucial 2018 World Cup qualifier at Borg El Arab Stadium.

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.