BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Hibernian assistant manager Garry Parker will spend this evening in the land which proved footballing fairytales can still come true. The underdog nation which became the toast of a continent by virtue of their Euro 2016 exploits.
However, the straight-talking Englishman has vowed to ensure shocks such as the one Iceland inflicted on his compatriots are few and far between for Hibs in the Championship this term.
With the tiny nation still celebrating their remarkable triumph over England in the last-16, Urvalsdeild outfit Valur will look to bottle some of that magic when they face Brondby in the Europa League.
While the continental campaign, borne from their long awaited Scottish Cup triumph, is a welcome bonus for Hibs, winning the Championship is the clear priority for Parker, who compared the Hibees status in the second tier to Celtic’s standing in the top-flight.
The first words he uttered to the assembled press since his return to Scottish football alongside Neil Lennon were: “It’s a great club isn’t it? . . . It’s just in the wrong league.” So the duo’s mission is clear.
“It’s similar to Celtic in that we are a big club in this league, as Celtic are,” continued Parker. “Everyone raised their game at Celtic because of that and we have to make sure the guys do that here and, if they do, then we’ll win games.
“Consistency is something we have to address and put right. We’ve got to beat teams in the Championship, without being disrespectful to them. They’ll raise their game, of course, but we have to get used to that.
“Hibs were a good side [last season] but obviously not good enough – because they didn’t get promoted. We need to see games out, because everyone in this league will be out to stop Hibs. We have to get that mentality right.
“We are here to put things right and get out of this league. It’s been very good so far. The standard has been good, very good, and the boys are working hard.”
Parker dutifully followed Lennon to Bolton in 2014 after the pair had decided to have a crack at England and candidly describes the move as “a disaster from day one”, adding “promises were broken” and “lessons learned”.
However, their partnership never wavered. Parker revealed he was afforded the opportunity to stay at Bolton without Lennon. He declined. And when the call came regarding the Hibs post, he did not hesitate to accept the offer.
“I could have stayed at Bolton. But my career is with Neil and it will always be. It is a partnership and I won’t work with anyone else,” continued Parker.
“I’ve got a family who live in Oxford, but it doesn’t bother me. I’m here to work and do it properly. I’m happy to do what he’s doing and when I saw the facilities I thought ‘let’s do it’.”
Parker admits not a great deal has changed in the way he and Lennon operate since those highly-successful years at Parkhead, albeit both men have matured and progressed as a consequence of hardships at Bolton.
“I’m the good cop,” he smiled. “I put the session on and he stands on the sidelines barking his orders! It’s a good combination. I’ve not seen much of a change in Neil…he can still be an angry man.
“There is not much sign of him mellowing. If we are winning and people are working correctly, he’s happy. If not, then he is an angry man, as you’d expect. It’s the same relationship we had at Celtic – but the thing that makes us good is good players.
“We did well at Celtic and went down to Bolton, where things didn’t go so well, but you learn from your mistakes and we are back in Scotland and hungry to prove a point that we can do the job.
“I can see players and know how I want teams to play. I bring my ideas to the table. At times he’s gone with my opinion… and it’s usually worked.”