BY ALAN TEMPLE – CCP_Sport
NEIL LENNON has backed Graeme Murty to use his Ibrox audition to land the top job at Rangers – just like he did at Celtic.
Lenny knows the stresses and challenges facing the interim gaffer in Govan better than most, having initially taken the reins at the Hoops on a temporary basis following the dismissal of Tony Mowbray in March 2010.
While they finished six points adrift of Rangers in the top-flight that season, Lennon oversaw a marked improvement from the dismal final days of the Mowbray era and he was given the role full-time at the end of the campaign.
And Lennon sees no reason why Murty cannot follow the same path after guiding the Gers to three successive league wins and following Derek McInnes snubbing any interest from the Glasgow giants – albeit he is determined to derail that momentum at Easter Road tonight.
He said: “That caretaker role is a difficult position and you are maybe drip-fed information at times.
“I knew what I was doing: take the club until the end of the season. I don’t think Graeme actually has the luxury of knowing what the timescale is so, in that regard, he has handled things very well. He speaks well, any questions he can’t answer, he bats them off.
“If he wants the job, then it’s all about results. If he keeps the result going, then why not? There doesn’t seem to be any outstanding candidates, which is strange, and now that Derek [McInnes] has decided to stay up in Aberdeen, Graeme is in a good position.
“Whether he wants the job or not, I couldn’t answer that. I certainly wanted the Celtic job and tried to make a right good fist of it at the time. He seems to be doing the same.
“He’ll absolutely be looking at this as a massive opportunity. Make the most of the opportunity that is there and, if the board decide not to offer it, then at least your reputation is in good order and perhaps someone else will pick up on that.”
Lennon admits that he fully expected to be facing off against McInnes in the dugout this evening when news broke of Rangers’ interest, confessing that he would have taken the job if he had been in the shoes of the Dons boss.
Nevertheless, he can understand McInnes’ reluctance to jump into an imperfect role following a tough time at Bristol City.
Lennon, himself, made an ill-fated judgment to join Bolton when he left Celtic, quickly finding himself swimming against the tide at a club mired in financial crisis.
He continued: “I would have expected Derek to be in the dugout tonight but that’s Derek’s decision.
“I’m only surmising, but he had a tough time at Bristol City behind the scenes. When you’ve had that – and I’ve had it at Bolton – you don’t want to be firefighting again. So maybe that’s one of the reasons.
“He’s very happy an in a stable environment at Aberdeen and he’s already turned down Sunderland, which looks like the right decision in hindsight too.
“It’s not about the money for Derek. It’s about the right club and a stable environment and maybe the reason he decided to stay was he was going into the unknown a bit.
“But I was surprised. They backed [Pedro] Caixinha in the summer and they are the only club out-with Celtic that has those kind of resources. That can be a very powerful draw. If it had been me, I would have taken it. Finish second, you’ve done your job and build from there.
“But I don’t know what goes on behind the scenes.”
Despite the upturn in Rangers’ fortunes, the Hibees will draw level on points with their visitors with a win under the lights in the capital as they continue to exceed expectations in their first Premiership campaign since 2013/14.
They are fresh from a breathless 2-2 draw against Celtic’s Invincibles on Sunday and Lennon has urged his players to embrace the prospect of another unforgettable occasion at Easter Road and relish their lofty berth.
Lennon added: “The players are all champing at the bit. These are the games you want to play in. They look after themselves in terms of self-motivating: under the lights with a full house, they get the energy. It lifts them again.
“The aim is to perform on a consistent basis. I am not saying we will finish second but we are only three points off it.
“That increased expectation doesn’t bring any problems for me. There has to be a reality check – in modern football it’s feast or famine sometimes – but we must be doing something right if the fans’ expectations are rising. We need to enjoy that and rise to the challenge.”
And Lennon is adamant his players will be ready for whatever the Gers can throw at them, reflecting on a fiery 3-2 win for his charges at Ibrox earlier on in the season.
He added: “They are always feisty affairs. We won’t be going out there to be overly-aggressive. That is not our style, but if it gets physical then we can be physical. As long as the players do it within the laws of the game.”