BY ALAN TEMPLE, COPENHAGEN – @CCP_Sport
Hibs boss Neil Lennon has candidly admitted he will be unable to do his job properly against Brondby after being confined to the stands.
The fiery Northern Irishman was sent from the dugout during a tempestuous first leg against the Danish giants after vociferous complaints regarding Jason Cummings’ wrongly-disallowed equaliser.
After remonstrating with the official responsible for the call, assistant Miguel Martinez, he was dismissed by referee Juan Martinez Munuera.
It was a decision Lennon described as “pathetic” at the time, nevertheless he will serve an automatic ban in Copenhagen this evening as his side seek to overturn a one-goal deficit – without his guidance from the touchline.
Head of youth development Eddie May, formerly a manager in his own right at Falkirk, has been drafted into the dugout to offer guidance to Lennon’s long-time number two Garry Parker.
“It is a frustrating situation for me. I can’t do my job properly from the stand,” rued the Hibernian boss as he addressed the assembled press last night.
“I felt it was a double-punishment, we clearly had a good goal disallowed then I was sent off for protestations which I felt were muted.
“I have good people behind me and we will prepare them as best as we can, but I can’t do my job properly.
“We’ve drafted in [youth development manager] Eddie May to the dugout alongside my assistant Garry Parker to give us another older head, but we will discuss things and prepare for the situation as best we can.”
A swathe of Uefa regulations will stop Lennon from having any bearing on the contest once the first whistle goes, with the Hibs chief banned from the technical area throughout and prohibited from communicating with any of his coaches.
“It’s all a little pedantic,” added Lennon. “But there is nothing I can do about it now. It is out of my control.”
Only a catastrophic error from rookie goalkeeper Otso Virtanen saw Hibs succumb to defeat against Alexander Zorniger’s men, with the capital club turning in a bright display which merited at least a draw.
It was the 22-year-old’s first ever appearance for Hibs and the blunder took place after just 15 seconds, with the Finland under-21 internationalist spilling a tame shot into the path of a grateful Kamil Wilczek to slot home.
However, Lennon is adamant he has not been required to give Virtanen any special treatment – whether an arm around the shoulder or tough love – as he prepares to pitch the youngster into one of the fiercest atmospheres in Scandinavia.
“I’ve not had to nurse him through this week because no-one was pointing any fingers at him after the first leg,” continued Lennon.
“We have just let him get on with his business in what we believe is the bets way for him.
“We haven’t dwelled on it and we have moved on. Judging by his body language in training he looks fine to me.”
Meanwhile, Hibs captain David Gray admits he was running on adrenaline against Brondby at Easter Road after seeing his second child born less than 24 hours before kick-off.
Gray’s fiancee gave birth to baby Archie last Wednesday and, despite a predictable lack of sleep, he declared himself fit and ready to lead out the Hibees in the Europa League the following night.
The 28-year-old’s performance masked the fatigue, with the right-back turning in a typically energetic and dangerous display despite the narrow 1-0 defeat.
The arrival of his second child capped a truly momentous two months for Gray, the man who will be forever known as the skipper and winning goalscorer when Hibs ended their 114-year wait for Scottish Cup glory.
Nevertheless, Gray is not one to rest on his laurels and is already looking ahead to what he hopes will be another unforgettable campaign.
He added: “Archie was born on the day of the game I got a few hours of sleep but in the end that high and the adrenaline gets you through.
“The opportunity to play in Europe was a great boost as well, you don’t want to miss out on that.
“The missus and the wee one were well so that was the most important thing. I was able to put that to the back of my mind and fully concentrate on the game.
“It has been a really good few months, with special occasions, but I’m looking forwards, not back.
“My life hasn’t changed too much after the Cup final. The whole squad enjoyed the reaction, which was overwhelming at times.
“But the bottom line is we failed on getting promotion, which was our main objective. We need to do everything we possibly can this year to make sure that happens.”