NEIL LENNON is convinced the kind of ‘hunger’ he tasted as a teenager when idolising the visiting Paul McStay and Roy Aitken is feeding into the success of Northern Irish managers in Scottish football.
The Hibs boss will square up to one of his compatriots on Saturday afternoon when former international team-mate Stephen Robinson brings on-form Motherwell to Easter Road.
Last weekend, Lennon took on countryman Tommy Wright against St Johnstone and Brendan Rodgers is currently sweeping all before him domestically with Celtic.
It means a quarter of the teams in the Premiership are currently led by managers from across the water and Lennon reckons there are sound reasons for the current success of the Northern Irish.
He said: “It’s strange. It doesn’t happen every often, but I think we get well schooled by the IFA, who have great coaching courses over there in terms of doing our badges and our progress under [coach education manager] Nigel Best.
“And you’ve got Michael [O’Neill] there who is doing wonderful things with the national team, so it’s all good, all very positive.
“And we are hungry, we want to do well. The Northern Ireland boys are a little bit of a throwback to the way the Scottish boys have been over the last 20 or 30 years. There is that real work ethic about us.
“The Scottish clubs have picked good managers. Brendan has been a revelation, so has Tommy, I have had my bit and now Stephen is cutting his teeth at Motherwell. I think there will be a few more coming through as well.
“There is a hunger there. When you are growing up in Northern Ireland, England and Scotland were the places you wanted to be but they seemed a million miles away.
“It was massive to meet players because you never saw them in real life.
“When I was a kid, Roy Aitken and Paul McStay came over for a do in Belfast and I just thought it was amazing. I was just like ‘wow’.
“I was 14 and I was starstruck because you never got to see them that often.
“Now you have Sky, BT – a real saturation of football – and kids maybe shrug their shoulders at it these days. But that magic was there for us.”
After three matches without a victory – a home defeat to Hamilton Accies and draws with Dundee and St Johnstone – Hibs need three points this afternoon to prove they are contenders for the top places in the Premiership this season.
Lennon added: “It would be good to get a win. We’ve been playing well, our two performances after the disappointment of Hamilton have been high quality. I’ve been very pleased and if we play like that we will win more than we lose.”
Meanwhile, Hibs have been struck a blow after it emerged defender Liam Fontaine requires surgery on ankle ligament damage that is likely to keep him out for up to three months.