Interview | Hibernian boss Neil Lennon talks coaching, Cathro, the Championship title & Bonnyrigg

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BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport

NEIL LENNON has seen Ian Cathro’s appointment on the other side of Edinburgh polarise Scottish football.

In one camp, the likes of Kris Boyd and Jamie Fullarton, decrying the 30-year-old’s lack of experience and underlining the struggles he could face commanding the Hearts dressing room.

They have been swiftly shouted down by those who see Cathro as the fresh, innovative voice this country has been crying out for after years of decline.

Lennon took a ‘traditional’ route to coaching (Pic: HIbsTV)

Amid the fiery debate, the Hibernian head coach reckons Jose Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp and Rafa Benitez prove that there is a middle-ground to be found when it comes to succeeding as a boss.

Lennon said: “I know that [Hearts director of football] Craig Levein has worked with Ian before and he has a very good CV, with Newcastle and Valencia. He obviously wants to be his own man now so good luck to him.

“He certainly isn’t ‘Old School’ and hasn’t come down a traditional path, but that is absolutely fine. Ian is very highly thought of and Hearts clearly feel he is the right man to take them forward.

“A playing career is an advantage, no question, because you have been through the rigours they are going through and have been in their shoes – but that is not to say you will be a good manager.

“There have been plenty of high profile players who have not succeeded in management.

“And if you look in England there are plenty of really top-class managers who weren’t brilliant players. From Mourinho, to Benitez to Jurgen Klopp – I don’t think he was much of a player – who have all cracked it on the managerial side.

“Guys like Ian and Austin [MacPhee] study the game, study the statistics, analyse the game and see the benefits, as we all do. They probably have more of an educational background than me, to put it that way.

“My education was playing. That’s how I earned my spurs. But I believe there is an avenue for both.”

Lennon took an unashamedly traditional route into management, taking the reins at Celtic following a distinguished career as the Hoops’ club captain and concedes that was a benefit when it came to commanding the respect of the squad.

However, he echoed the opinion of Hearts’ new assistant head coach MacPhee – whose work with Northern Ireland drew praise from Lennon – when he stated this week that “Pele could lose respect in 10 minutes if he can’t coach”.

He continued: “It does help if you have been at a club and have gone through everything those players are going through. There is an immediate respect there.

“However, that will fade away and ultimately you are judged on your coaching skills.

“Man management is a huge part of it as well and how to get the best out of your players. It will be interesting to see how they go. It’s an exciting challenge – Ian wanted to go out on his own and has taken the plunge.”

Lennon reckons Cathro can take inspiration from Jose Mourinho (Pic: Aleksandr Osipov)

While Cathro will make his bow at the home of Lennon’s old foes, Rangers, the Northern Irishman’s focus will be on ensuring Hibs recover from their 1-0 defeat at the hands of Dundee United last Friday night when Dumbarton visit the capital.

The result saw Ray McKinnon’s men draw level with Hibs at the summit of the Championship – but the man in the Easter Road hot-seat is remaining composed.

He added: “We didn’t play that badly against United and we didn’t deserve to lose the game. It was a tale of two penalties.

“We are still top of the league. I understand the supporters getting nervy but we are not even halfway through the season and there is more to come from the team.

“That was our first defeat in a while. We have been playing very well and at a high level. If we can maintain that then we will see where that takes us.”

Meanwhile, Lennon has backed Bonnyrigg Rose’s bid to have their Scottish Cup fourth round tie against Hibs switched to Tynecastle.

He added: “I’ve no issue with that and it probably suits both teams.

“Financially, for Bonnyrigg, it would be very good. And we are used to the environment at Tynecastle – I don’t know much about the pitch or facilities at New Dundas Park! I’d be in favour of that, no problem.”

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