BY IAIN COLLIN –[email protected]_sport
MARTIN Boyle admits Neil Lennon struck a chord with his accusation that Hibs were soft touches.
But he reckons the on-song side have successfully made the transition from boy band to heavy metal stars this season
On his appointment, Lennon spoke of ridding the club of a fragility he first noticed when playing for Celtic against the immaculately turned out and talented youngsters developed under Tony Mowbray over a decade ago.
It was a failing that reared its head last season when Alan Stubbs’ team proved prone to conceding late goals, none more vital than the one in injury-time against Falkirk that cost them a place in the play-off final against Kilmarnock.
However, with the Scottish Cup winners having built on May’s Hampden triumph against Rangers to sweep all before them in the league so far this season, Boyle believes Lennon has brought with him a tougher mentality that can lead them to Championship success.
He said: “He still keeps telling us that we are not going to be the same old soft Hibs, stuff like that. He’s changed that.
“We have been defensively solid since he has come in and we go out fighting for each other. We are scoring a lot more goals this season too.
“What did I think when I read him calling us soft? Maybe we were in certain aspects. Maybe the way we dealt with it (the pressure) when we met Falkirk was a bit soft.
“But it makes you strive to go out onto the pitch and prove him wrong.
“He’s not actually talked about (the boy-band comparison) to us but he said that to the Press. But he has definitely toughened us up and that’s the kind of character he is.
“He can have his (frightening) moments, everyone knows what he is like. He’s come in here and stamped his authority straight away and he’s getting the best out of the boys.
“He was a winner as a player and he wants us to be winners too. He always brings up his stories and stuff like that and we attach onto that.
“He talks about the players he has played against, and says he wasn’t nervous when he went to play. He says to test ourselves and we can go high in the game. He’s a great manager.”
Boyle helped Hibs launch their Persevered Scottish Cup trophy tour earlier this week and admitted being called a legend by one primary school pupil was ‘nice to hear’ but a description he attaches more to David Gray, club captain and scorer of the goal that won the cup for the first time in 114 years.
Boyle was an unused substitute in the final but took a fuller part in the celebrations than many of his team-mates as he partied for days after.
Having ended the club’s agonising wait for the cup they had last won in 1902, the 23-year-old admits the focus is very firmly set on now giving supporters promotion back to the Premiership.
He added: “The main priority over the last two years has been promotion so it’s not been good enough not getting through the play-offs. We know that ourselves. We’re striving to change that this year.
“We want to get back to Hampden, we want to win more trophies for Hibernian. We feel that the club is on the up. We’ve had some success and we want to do it again, hopefully getting promotion this season.
“The social media feedback was great after the cup final, with supporters thanking you and saying it was the greatest day of their lives.
“You’d walk down the street and randoms were giving you hugs and saying you are a legend and it was the greatest day of their lives.
“It was nice to hear that. Hopefully promotion can be the icing on the cake.”