BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
HIBS legend Jackie McNamara Sr insists tying Neil Lennon down to a new contract would be an inspired move – before suitors south of the border start taking notice.
Lennon’s current deal expires at the end of the season and reports have suggested he is ready to enter into talks about extending his stay in Leith until 2020.
The 46-year-old, who took charge of the capital club last June, guided them to the Championship title and Scottish Cup semi-final last term.
Hibs have started this campaign in similarly promising fashion, winning two of their first three top-flight fixtures and securing a place in the quarter-final of the Betfred Cup. The only blot on the copy book was Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at home to Hamilton.
And Easter Road icon McNamara reckons his old club should waste no time in handing their head coach an extension, before the managerial merry-go-round in England gathers pace.
The 64-year-old said: “I have no doubt there will be clubs sniffing about Neil. Give it a couple of weeks in England and people will already be losing their jobs and I’m sure there would be a few chairman looking at what Neil has done with Hibs.
“Things didn’t work out at Bolton, for a number of reasons, but there’s no doubt he will still be on the radar down there.
“Obviously, the Hamilton result was a disappointment at the weekend but hopefully that was just a blip because, aside from that, it is all positivity at Easter Road.
“It would be even more positivity if Neil signs a new contract – it would be an unbelievable bit of business by the board.”
In a cheeky dig at Rangers, McNamara – who also turned out for Celtic as a player – added: “You never know, Rangers might be interested in a new manager soon!”
McNamara, who made 293 appearances for Hibs between 1976 and 1985, believes holding onto Lennon is pivotal to ensuring standards remain sky high at Easter Road.
Lennon has made no secret of his desire to be challenging towards the European places and that is music to the ears of McNamara, who is desperate to see the Hibees develop a relentless streak.
He continued: “While he is there, he’ll keep the players on their toes, which is always vital. He doesn’t suffer fool gladly and he is a fiery character.
“I don’t know whether it is the Irish blood or the red hair! But he certainly gets his point across to them and demands the highest standards.
“When you play for Celtic and manage there, you need to have that will to win. He is not used to losing games – and that’s the sort of manager Hibs need.
“He will be constantly looking to improve and get Hibs pushing towards Europe. He is a winner, simple as that, so if we can keep him long term it’ll be a real coup.”
Efe Ambrose, Steven Whittaker, Anthony Stokes, Ofir Marciano, Vykintas Slivka, Simon Murray, Danny Swanson and loan winger Brandon Barker have all arrived during a hugely impressive summer shopping spree by Hibs.
And McNamara is adamant that Lennon putting pen to paper would cap it all.
He added: “Hibs have already brought in some good players this summer and the progress is starting to show on the pitch.
“It would feel like the icing on the cake if – after strengthening the squad – we can also get the manager tied up.”
In a peculiar twist of fate, McNamara was travelling to Spain earlier this week when he met Lennon – jetting out to Ireland – at Glasgow Airport. With the benefit of hindsight, he knows he passed up a glorious opportunity to do Hibs’ bidding.
He laughed: “I actually bumped into Lenny at the airport the other day, he was flying out to Dublin to do a bit of TV work and we caught up and had a blether about how my son was doing and a few other things.
“I wish I knew that he had started talking about a new deal – I would have tried to twist his arm!”