Over the course of the last week, the best football team in Scotland outside of Celtic Park has put in two excellent displays.
It wasn’t Aberdeen and sure as Hell it was not Sevco.
It was Hibs. It was Neil Lennon’s team. In the first instance they snatched a point from us, when we allowed them to get back into a game in which they were dead. Then last night they utterly dominated Sevco, but somehow took nothing from the match.
When Celtic were 2-0 in front of them, I started composing my match report and in it I was going to be pretty cutting. I was going to say that when our unbeaten run does end it will not end against a team that puts so many men behind the ball. Because for much of the game that’s what Hibs did. When they actually attacked – when they started to play football – they looked much better, and they gave us one Hell of a scare.
Neil Lennon sent them out in exactly that frame of mind last night.
They took the lead in that game and had they scored a second – and there were umpteen chances before Sevco’s equaliser – they would have won comfortably. Even at 2-1 down they didn’t stop trying to play. They are a credit to their manager and the ideas he’s trying to instil in them.
What the latter part of the Celtic game, and the whole of last night’s, reveals is a Neil Lennon team that is growing in confidence. They want to win games by playing good football. I expect that if he stays there for the next couple of years that Hibs will be a regular contender for European places and a permanent fixture in the latter stages of the cups.
That depends, to an extent, on his keeping the team together or at least on his getting the money that any sales bring in. John McGinn was almost certainly leave in the next 12 months, hopefully in the direction of Celtic Park.
Neil has to get the cash that raises, and he has to be allowed to spend it buying a good replacement and strengthening other areas.
If Neil gets to build the team he wants we’ll see a show over there.
He is a better manager than he was when he was at Celtic Park; he is more mature, more tactically astute, he is a better team builder and although an idealist he has a pragmatism which some say Brendan Rodgers would do well to consider adopting. I disagree as it happens.
But Neil has come a long way and so has his team.
It was an imaginative and ambitious appointment from Hibs, and it’s paying off.