BY IAIN COLLIN –[email protected]_sport
GRANT Holt insists Hibernian will not be distracted from their number one goal of promotion as they prepare to kick off the new season with a bang against Falkirk.
The 35-year-old is Neil Lennon’s marquee signing of the summer so far, with Israel international keeper Ofir Marciano having arrived in the capital to join him at Easter Road.
The Scottish Cup winners are entering their third year in the Championship and Lennon has made it his stated aim to return the club to the Premiership without any further delay.
And Holt, who scored in Sunday’s 4-1 victory over Shrewsbury Town as Hibs finalised their warm-up for Saturday’s opening-day trip to Falkirk, insists he and his team-mates are fully focused on the challenges ahead.
He said: “We’re well aware what we’re leading up to.
“We’ll take the positives of what we’ve done in the last few games and against Brondby. I think you can see what we want to do and what we’re trying to do as a group of players, and what the manager has instilled into us.
“It gives us good heart going into the season.
“We know it’s going to be a tough old year, we know what’s going to happen, and it’s up to us to rise to that occasion.
“But our goal’s not changing. We want to win the league and we want to get out of the division.”
Holt made his competitive debut for Hibs in the Europa League clash with Brondby, with extra-time in the second-leg in Copenhagen helping to hone the squad’s fitness ahead of the domestic campaign.
And the 35-year-old, who finished last term with English League One side Rochdale after leaving Wigan Athletic in January, insists he is in tip-top condition as the new season approaches.
He told Hibs TV: “I’m happy with how things are going. I’ve got through pre-season fit, I feel great and I feel strong.
“I always said I needed a pre-season. I needed pre-season to get going, to get fit and to play games.
“I’ve been lucky to get that and get through it. I’ve done every run I’ve been asked to do and I was fortunate to get 120 minutes against Brondby the other week, which we didn’t really want but we got.
“Now I’m feeling fit, I’m feeling strong and I think anyone can see I’m looking sharp and ready to work hard.”
UEFA ban for Lennon
Meanwhile, Hibs have launched an appeal after head coach Neil Lennon was hit with a massive five-match ban for ‘acts of violence against the referee’ in last month’s Europa League clash with Brondby.
Lennon was sent to the stand in his first competitive outing as Easter Road boss after clashing with Spanish whistler Juan Martínez Munuera during the first-leg 1-0 defeat in Edinburgh.
Lennon later branded the officials’ decision to rule out a ‘perfectly legitimate’ Jason Cummings strike ‘pathetic’ and returned to the theme after his side exited the tournament on penalty kicks following a second-leg victory in Denmark.
The former Celtic boss had to sit in the stands for that encounter in Copenhagen after being served with an initial one match suspension and later said: “If it hadn’t been for poor refereeing in the first-leg, we wouldn’t have had to go to extra-time and penalties because we would have been through.”
At a meeting of UEFA’s Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body (CEDB) on Tuesday, Lennon was accused of breaching Article 11 (2) of the governing body’s disciplinary regulations, with the committee deciding to mete out a five-game suspension.
However, Hibs have vowed to fight the censure.
A statement read: “Hibernian are aware of the sanction imposed by UEFA on head coach Neil Lennon and are in the process of appealing the suspension.
“The club will be making no further comment at this stage.”