LEWIS STEVENSON is convinced Neil Lennon can lead Hibs to success in the Premiership next season – because the only way to please the former Celtic manager is by winning.
Stevenson, who will warm up for the new campaign with his own testimonial match, against Sunderland on July 9, is relishing the feel-good factor surrounding the Easter Road club this summer following promotion back to the top-flight.
The mood contrasts sharply with that of three years ago when Hibs were relegated from the top-flight and players were freed or told they would have to leave in a brutal cost-cutting exercise.
Stevenson has experienced such horrible lows and the incredible highs of last year’s historic Scottish Cup triumph and the 2007 League Cup victory in more than 350 games for his only senior club.
And the 29-year-old, who penned a new two-year deal last month, believes having such a hard taskmaster as Lennon can inspire Hibs on their Premiership return.
Stevenson said: “The manager has big expectations and that’s what pushed us on last season.
“Sometimes the manager is hard to please and that brings out the best in you.
“He doesn’t accept second best. He wants to win. He’s a winner and that’s the way to be.
“You want that. There have been times when we’ve not played as well as we should and we have won – and generally that makes him seem happy.
“There have been times when we’ve played reasonably well and been unlucky not to win – and he’s raging.
“Winning makes the manager happy and that’s what you need.
“Every day, he’s hard at it and he brings the best out of us every single day.”
Lennon will face a hard task in trying to replace the goals of Jason Cummings and experienced target man Grant Holt this summer, though the arrivals of Danny Swanson and Simon Murray will help, and a permanent deal for Efe Ambrose will strengthen Hibs’ defensive options.
But the Easter Road boss will be fully aware he will need further fresh signings if he is to make good on his promise to be challenging for second next term.
Stevenson added: “We’ve played most of the [Premiership] teams in the past few years and we have shown we can compete with them.
“Doing it over an entire season is not easy, but if we can go for second, it’ll be amazing.
“Obviously, it will be tough. We are just promoted, but the manager sets us targets and we try to reach them.”