HIBERNIAN head coach Neil Lennon insists the demands for success at Easter Road pale in comparison to Glasgow’s pressure-cooker football environment as he launched a fresh attack on his underperforming players.
The former Celtic captain and manager’s remarks come in the wake of Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat at Motherwell – which leaves the Leith side seven points adrift of the top six following a barren run of only three wins from 15 matches in all competition.
Lennon, who has never been shy in lambasting his players in public, has vowed to continue ‘keep whipping’ the squad until they rediscover their form.
The 47-year-old has also backed Hearts manager and Craig Levein’s man-management after his fierce Edinburgh rival described his own striker David Vanecek as ‘rubbish’ in the Gorgie outfit’s midweek set-back to Dundee.
A veteran of Glasgow’s ardent footballing customs, Lennon made it clear to his players that their own surroundings are considerably less stressful to those he experienced at the other end of the M8.
“It’s a hard game, I get that, said Lennon, who was due to take his team to St Mirren tomorrow.
“This is not a hard environment to play in. Glasgow is. This is not a hard environment to play in.
“Every manager has targets, every manager has demands: win the league, make Europe, top six, don’t get relegated; they are all demands that managers have.
“So all pressures are relative. But this pressure we have at this club isn’t very demanding. “It’s an environment where they should be thriving, not putting in half-baked performances week in, week out. Because it won’t be tolerated.
“I can’t keep whipping them but I will do until I get a response.
“How else are you supposed to approach it? You can’t go, ‘it’s all right lads, we’ll move on to the next game’.”
Lennon, who said Ryan Porteous was due to go for a scan yesterday ahead of visiting a specialist on Monday after the defender’s knee ‘popped out’ at Fir Park, added: “You have to make demands of players. The manager always takes the brunt of it and that’s fine, I get that but there has to be a responsibility of the players as well.
“I’ll take responsibility for results and performances but it’s a two-way thing and that first half was nowhere near acceptable.”
Lennon, who branded his players as ‘unprofessional’ and ‘amateur’ following last May’s defeat at Hearts, also sided with his Tynecastle counter-part regarding Levein’s no holds barred comment about Vanecek.
He added: “It’s not acceptable for him (Vanecek) or the manager and the players around him as well, so Craig is making a point not just to the individual but the players as a whole, it’s not good enough. That’s his job and he’s right to do that.
“What do we do, do we sit there and say nothing? He can improve, of course he can, but obviously he fell way short of what he’s been seeing in training or what he’s been asking him to do.
“We don’t want to go out and publicly criticise players but at times they need it. (Former Manchester United and Chelsea manager) Jose Mourinho can do it, but he gets criticised for it. Why? The guy has won 25 trophies.
“You get the new-age coaches and managers saying you shouldn’t be saying this or that, that’s fine – that’s their way.
“That’s all right if you’re (Liverpool manager) Jurgen Klopp and (Manchester City manager) Pep Guardiola and you’re winning every week.
“I’m not by any means old school but I am a bit of both and I will get the whip out when it’s required and I think it was required on Wednesday, and still is until I get a level of performance that I’m looking for.”
While recognising that modern-day football players are less inured to scathing criticism, Lennon admits being singled out by straight-talking former Wycombe and Celtic manager Martin O’Neill brought out the best in him.
He added: “Millions of times O’Neill would go through me like a hot knife through butter. “You can go one or the other but usually I went the other way. I thought, ‘right, I’ll show you’, or are you honest enough to go, ‘you know what, he’s right and I need to buck up my ideas here’.
“The quality of player sitting next to me, I might be letting them down, or I might be sitting on my backside for a few weeks.”
Hibs captain David Gray, meanwhile, admits both his and the team’s season has been disheartening.
The right-back has made six Premiership starts in an injury-hampered campaign and has only just shaken off a niggling ankle problem that has troubled the 30-year-old since last October
He said: “Personally I am very frustrated at the way the season has panned out.
“It started off really well and I was really enjoying it, playing games all the time and feeling good.
“And then obviously being injured, it’s the worst thing for a professional footballer.
“I have had enough of them down the years to know how to deal with it.
“But it doesn’t make it any easier.
“And when results aren’t going well on the pitch as well it adds to the frustration because you feel powerless to help out and try and put it right.”