He was attacked as Celtic boss – but Neil Lennon relishing his first Edinburgh derby at Hearts

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The subject of an appalling dugout attack at Tynecastle, you would not blame Neil Lennon for being less than enthused about returning to the home of Hearts for his first Edinburgh derby as head coach of Hibernian.

The Northern Irishman, however, insists the 17,000-capacity stadium is actually a venue he relishes.

Both teams will be greeted by an emotionally-charged atmosphere when they emerge from the tunnel for today’s William Hill Scottish Cup fifth round clash.

(Pic: HIbsTV)

Nearly six years ago, however, footballing rivalry overstepped the mark.

Hearts supporter John Wilson climbed over the advertising boards, ran along the touchline and lunged at an unsuspecting Lennon, who was then in charge of Celtic.

The 45-year-old came away unharmed, but was naturally shaken by the incident.

Lennon, however, insists a return to Tynecastle for today’s televised encounter does not faze him.

“I like Tynecastle as a stadium,” insists Lennon. “I like the atmosphere it generates and I’ve had some great days there.

“I’m looking forward to it, with it being my first Edinburgh derby.

“I won’t look over my shoulder when the abuse comes. Though, we’ll see. It will depend on the scoreline.

“I assume Sunday will be no different in terms of atmosphere. Our support will be right up for it. I’m sure the players will as well.

“I do like the traditional stadiums. I think some of the newer ones lack a bit of soul, from a few I’ve been to in England.

“The atmosphere’s not the same and it’s very corporate. It’s very sanitised. There’s still a rawness about a lot of the stadiums in Scotland which generates a better atmosphere.

“It has been pretty laid back this season at most grounds around the country.

“Now that it’s starting to build I’m starting to get a bit more excited

“It’s a derby. You get the bragging rights and a gateway to the next round if you can come through it.”

A veteran of explosive Old Firm clashes as a player and manager, Lennon is well aware of what this tussle means to the city.

Hibs came back from two goals down to force a replay in the competition at the same stage last year before winning at Easter Road courtesy of Jason Cummings’ strike.

Lennon added: “I know the importance of the game. I’m not going to say it’s just another game because it’s not.

“It’s a big city derby, it means a lot to our supporters, and we will do our damnedest to overcome the opposition.

“It won’t be easy. It’s going to be tough, it will depend how our players handle the occasion.

“But they did it last year, so that may stand them in good stead with those experiences being so recent.

“I haven’t played in the Edinburgh Derby. I’ve experienced derbies but each one is different, with their own sub-plots.”

Hibs are on course to rejoin Hearts in the Premiership next season having created a six point gap at the Championship summit but after being held to a draw by Ayr United last weekend, Lennon insists seeing his team play to their potential at Hearts is likely to irritate him.

He added: “It will annoy me if they do because I want them to do it week-in, week-out in the Championship.

“I know they have got it in them and I know they will raise their game.

“I just want to see it week-in, week-out. They have got to get used to being the favourites every week.

“There’s no question of needing extra motivation for the tie itself. That makes my job easier. The players will be ready.

“Do they need to lift their game? Not really. That will take care of itself because they’re good players.”

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