Graham Ruthven: Can Hibs really do any better than Neil Lennon?

Neil Lennon looks to be headed for the exit door at Hibernian after a huge bust-up, but is there anyone that can top the Northern Irishman for them?


There had been signs that all was not well at Easter Road.

Neil Lennon’s refusal to conduct post-match interviews for a series of weeks, for instance, hinted at problems for Hibernian.

With almost every passing week, the Northern Irishman’s mood seemed to darken, even turning his ire towards his own players on occasion. Florian Kamberi took more flak than most.

In hindsight, news of Lennon’s exit as Hibs boss shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise, even if the circumstances surrounding the decision were the somewhat mysterious.

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Nobody seems truly certain of what straw it was that finally broke the camel’s back, although most accounts detail a team meeting on Friday that resulted in the suspension of Lennon and assistant Gary Parker by CEO Leeann Dempster.

They won’t appear in the Hibs dugout again.

What is agreed upon, however, is that Lennon was irked by what he perceived to be a lack of ambition by the Leith side.

He was exasperated by some of the dealings conducted by the club over the past year or so, implying that there was a difference of opinion between the manager and the Hibs boardroom over what were seen as achievable targets.

Having finished fourth in their first season back in the Scottish Premiership, Lennon wanted Hibs to push on.

He was disappointed in the first instance not to have finished second having championed his team as the best in the country behind Celtic. At least now he would have a solid platform to build from, though.

However, that platform quickly turned to quicksand as a number of key players left Easter Road over the summer.

In fact, Lennon lost his entire midfield unit, with John McGinn leaving for Aston Villa, Scott Allan returning to Celtic and Dylan McGeouch joining Sunderland. It was that midfield unit that had given Hibs such an edge last season.

Of course, clubs like Hibernian should expect to see players come and go, but Lennon was unhappy with the lack of replacements brought in.

Reportedly, he wanted McGinn sold to Celtic over Aston Villa because it would facilitate a loan move for Ryan Christie in the opposite direction. The Hibs board instead took the higher fee and didn’t reinvest the money.

This isn’t to say that Lennon isn’t to blame for how things unfolded.

His method of publicly calling out players for their lacklustre performances was widely questioned and ultimately it seems that this grated with the dressing room. A discussion over whether modern players are too soft, too quick to shirk from criticism, has now ensued in Scottish football circles.

But might Hibs come to regret their decision to suspend Lennon?

Now that discussion has turned to who might come in as the Northern Irishman’s successor the question must be asked – can they really get any better?

Lennon’s appointment back in the summer of 2016 was a coup for Hibernian.

Some had linked him with the Celtic job, which had been vacant at the time, so for the Leith club to lure the Northern Irishman was considered quite the statement of intent. On the whole, Lennon delivered and lived up to his billing, turning Hibs into a force once again.

This is a club that was once derided as the most volatile in Scottish football.

Lennon was their longest serving manager since the days of Alex McLeish at the start of the millennium. What we have witnessed over the past few days is a return to the unwelcome days of old for Hibernian.

There is a question of conduct over recent developments, and only Dempster and the players that attended the team meeting on Friday know the truth in that regard. But, from a purely footballing perspective, getting rid of Lennon will likely result in a downgrade in managerial clout for Hibs.

Whoever is next in the Easter Road dugout probably won’t measure up to the man who stood there before.

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What do you think?