Neil Lennon has substance and profile to take Hibernian forward

Neil Lennon
Neil Lennon won five trophies, including three league titles as Celtic manager

Convention never stood much chance of standing between Neil Lennon and Hibernian.

His previous jobs were at Celtic and Bolton, but moving to the second tier of Scottish football was no hindrance to him returning to work at Easter Road.

Lennon saw the vacancy as an opportunity, and that was enough to encourage Hibs that a figure of his profile and experience would accept a role in the Championship.

Even though his last job in Scotland involved leading a team on Champions League duty, Lennon's mind has not been swayed by haughtiness.

The appointment of the former Celtic manager as successor to Alan Stubbs suits both parties, because it is mutually beneficial.

Ambition

Success is alluring, and Hibs offer Lennon the chance to accumulate more achievements. He was immediately engaged in crisis management at his previous club Bolton, but will find stability, potential and accomplishment at Easter Road.

The demand will be to deliver promotion, but that will not seem daunting when the majority of the squad that pushed Rangers for a while last season then won the Scottish Cup is still in place. Lennon's task is to refine and bolster the team, when new managers are often faced with a period of overhaul.

Hibernian players celebrate with the Scottish Cup
Hibs ended season 2015-16 as Scottish Cup winners

Stubbs left the club on an emotional high after delivering their first Scottish Cup in 114 years, but before the final against Rangers there was a tangible sense of exasperation that promotion had been missed.

Hibs were entitled to feel that it was an unnecessary failure given their circumstances.

The club is about to embark on a third season in the Championship, but by most other measures they can be considered a top-flight outfit.

The budget will be significantly more than the rest of the teams in the division, the training ground at East Mains and facilities are first-class, the football side of the business is stable and well-run by George Craig, the club's head of football operations, the squad is full of talent.

Quality

Lennon can rely on consistently assured performances from the likes of David Gray, Darren McGregor, Paul Hanlon, Lewis Stevenson, John McGinn, Fraser Fyvie, Dylan McGeouch, James Keatings and Jason Cummings.

Some minor issues remain, such as who will fill the goal next season, but the challenge is more on adding depth and strength of will to the squad and man-management.

John McGinn
Scotland international McGinn is one of the players Lennon will inherit at Hibs

McGinn, one of the most reliably effective players in the Championship last season, has already insisted that he remains committed to Hibs despite the failure to achieve promotion. The 21-year-old midfielder provides the kind of industry and spirit that a team can be built around.

There may be critical decisions to make, though, since Cummings is entering the final year of his contract and so represents a sellable asset. He is a regular goalscorer, though, and Stubbs had to sign Anthony Stokes on loan last January to provide some support up front.

These are tweaks compared to the amount of work Stubbs had to carry out when he was appointed two years ago.

Hibs are ready to be guided forward, not waiting to be rescued.

Restoration

When Lennon left Celtic two years ago, it was to pursue a career in England. The sense was that the manager and the club were ready for a change in direction, but his next choice was misjudged.

Bolton were heavily in debt when he joined the club in October 2014 and although relegation was avoided in his first season, the following campaign was more fraught. Once Bolton entered administration, Lennon was engaged in fire-fighting.

Neil Lennon
Lennon endured a difficult 15 months at Bolton

The upheaval at the club would have contributed to the team's failures, but Lennon will feel that he needs to re-establish his standing. Managers can be quickly marginalised when they are out of work, which would have figured in Lennon's thinking.

Most prominently, though, he would have assessed the chance to build on the sense of progress and optimism at Easter Road and pursue success in the leagues and the cups as the ideal tonic for his career.

In return

For Hibs, Lennon represents substance and profile. He is a proven manager, at least in terms of building a first-team and motivating them to success.

Hibs are a contemporary club in their approach to recruitment, sports science and analysis, which might have suited other candidates better, but Lennon knows what it is to thrive and deliver under pressure.

Supporters will respond to his presence, which is significant when the level of season ticket sales will determine the level of budget that is available. The club had planned for two years in the Championship, so a third campaign requires resourcefulness.

Lennon is a captivating figure. Fans will welcome his wholeheartedness, while his standing in the media will keep attention focused on events at Easter Road. Players have a tendency to perform under his guidance, and it would not be surprising if one or two figures considered marginal by new Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers find a welcome home in Leith.

Hibs have made a bold appointment, with a focus on achieving their short-term aim of return to the top-flight. Lennon is likely to fulfil their ambitions, and at the same time rejuvenate his own.

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