Hibs head coach Neil Lennon keen to build on Scottish Cup final momentum in Europa League



Off the pitch, Hibs are keen to capitalise on the momentum gathered from May’s historic William Hill Scottish Cup final triumph in an attempt to entice more supporters to Easter Road.

On it, head coach Neil Lennon has implored his players to continue riding that euphoric crest of a wave when they tackle prominent Danish side Brondby in the Europa League this evening.

Hibs supporters and players are still revelling in the feel-good factor following that memorable 3-2 win over Rangers, and Lennon, who replaced Alan Stubbs in the dugout earlier this summer, does not want that brought to an abrupt halt.

(Pic: HIbsTV)
(Pic: HIbsTV)

The challenge facing Hibs in the second qualifying round is an onerous one; Lennon rates tonight’s opponents as a side that would be more than capable of challenging for league honours in Scotland.

“We’re going to compete,” stressed former Celtic manager Lennon, who also admitted that a deal to bring 19-year-old goalkeeper Alex Palmer from West Bromwich Albion on loan is close to being completed.

“I said to the players: ‘You’ve earned the right to be here’. They did something no other Hibs team did for more than 100 years so it would be a waste to lose all that momentum in the space of two games. Put as much into the European games as you did in the cup games and let’s see where it takes us.”

Brondby, who have former Celtic striker Teemu Pukki in their squad, convincingly beat Icelandic team Valur 10-1 on aggregate in the last round and Lennon admits they face the biggest task among any of Scotland’s European representatives, including Celtic, Aberdeen and Heart of Midlothian.

“I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves but it would be great to get through,” admits Lennon.

“We will take it as it comes. We got the toughest draw out of all the Scottish teams and we will try and negotiate it as best we can. But it is do-able.

“Where would you put Brondby? Top of the Scottish Premiership alongside Celtic and Rangers, and maybe Aberdeen.

“It’s nothing the players haven’t come up against before – last season they reached the League Cup final and won the final of the Scottish Cup and along the way they beat a lot of Premiership teams.

“So there’s nothing out of this world they will come up against in Brondby.”

A lack of game time is one issue that worries Lennon following three pre-season outings against Berwick Rangers, Edinburgh City and Motherwell.

He added: “The only thing that concerns me is we’re under-cooked. We have only had a couple of pre-season friendly games and some of the boys have not had 90 minutes yet.

“You want to avoid injury early, but preparation has probably gone as well as we could have asked for and we’re very much looking forward to the challenge.

“I can draw on my own European challenge from Celtic too.

“Garry Parker (Hibs assistant manager) and I have worked at Celtic for three or four years at European level so we can pass on little bits of information, but it’s important the players experience it themselves now and believe they can compete at that level.”

Hibs defender Paul Hanlon admits Lennon’s managerial pedigree fills the players with optimism.

“That’s the first thing he said in the meeting this morning that he has that experience of being at Celtic, much bigger European nights that we’ve been involved in,” said the centre-half.

“He’s got that experience and know how to get through these fixtures. We’ll be all listening to him and taking on as much as we can.

“I don’t know if you are the same but when he walks into a room when we’ve got a team meeting, you can tell he has that aura about him and that presence that he knows what he’s doing.

“He knows what he’s talking about and he’s done a lot in the game, and he’s got that respect right away.”