CHRIS HUMPHREY has backed Hibs to prove Neil Lennon right to declare they are the second best team in the country.
Lennon made his bold claim after watching his team go down 3-2 to Aberdeen following a stirring comeback in Saturday’s Scottish Cup semi-final.
The Dons currently sit in the runners-up spot in the Premiership and next month will go head to head with Celtic in a cup final for the second time this term.
But, despite losing out to the Pittodrie men in a five-goal thriller at Hampden, Humphrey insists the Easter Road outfit are well placed to challenge at the top end of Scottish football next season.
The former Motherwell winger said: “Keep this bunch together – and the gaffer obviously – and I can see them doing very well.
“The gaffer’s got experience of winning that league, and I’ve always said I think this is a Premiership squad.
“Second best? I can’t see why not. We proved on Saturday that we can mix with the best of them.
“Aberdeen are second in the Premiership, but apart from the first 20-odd minutes, I thought we did very well against them. The lads should take a lot of confidence from that.
“This club should be very excited about next season because I think it’ll be a good one for them.”
Whether Humphrey is part of that campaign remains to be seen, with the Jamaica internationalist – signed on a short-term deal in January – set to press for a new contract after returning from injury and set to face Raith Rovers on Wednesday night.
And he has described a more caring side to Lennon after revealing the at-times abrasive character’s role in him coping with off-field issues during his time on the treatment table.
Asked if he was surprised at the Northern Irishman’s scathing criticism of Hibs in the wake of Saturday’s defeat, the 29-year-old said: “Not really because we all know what the gaffer can be like.
“Listen, he’s a winner. Yeah, okay, he can go mad sometimes, but at the end of the day he loves his players and he’s always there for us. He’ll do anything for his players.
“I found that out when I went through some off-field problems. He was there every step of the way for me and showed another side of him that people might not see.
“I was going through a difficult time and had a bit of time off. The gaffer was brilliant, he rang me up and gave me a lot of support.
“He told me to come back whenever I was ready. I can’t thank him enough for that.
“You don’t really see that side of him when he’s on the pitch. Personally, I’ve seen both sides of him.”