Doesn’t time just fly. It’s now 18 days since Hibernian became 2016 Scottish Cup Champions (a sentence I will NEVER tire of using). For 18 days I have bored to death my Facebook friends and more importantly my wife, with Cup winners chat. If The cup final highlights was on old VHS, I probably would have worn it out by now. I have flitted between that and watching the full last half an hour of the game most days since we lifted the Trophy. I have so far framed half a dozen images of the match and celebrations (which I am informed will be getting put in the Bathroom – fine by me), bought a couple of Cup Winners T-shirts, and already eyed up the club shop for a few more pieces of VITAL merchandise, as well as sharing photos and videos of that weekend hundreds of times. I have enjoyed a wee laugh at the Hearts fans that have mocked us going on about our cup win. I mean imagine talking about a cup you won 2 full weeks ago! They’re just gutted that our win has ruined half their songbook.
Anyway, while we have been basking in our glory of becoming 2016 Scottish Cup Champions, there have been changes afoot down Easter Road way. In my last 2 blogs, I’ve too’d and fro’d over whether Stubbs would depart, and last week he decided that the natural progression for his football management career would be to feckin’ Rotherham! Although in all honesty, I can completely see why he’s gone. He has left us on the ultimate high. Winning the league this season would not add any value to his stock as that is now the minimum expected. The only thing that could happen to his stock this coming season is to see it fall, if somehow we failed to get promoted and left us in the Championship for a 4th season. If it was heading that way, the likelyhood is he would get sacked, and it would be a shame for our cup winning managers time here to end in such a way. The job he’s gone to may be one we look down on when comparing Rotherham to Hibs as a club. But they are in the English Championship, where he will be up against the likes of Newcastle, Leeds, Aston Villa, Norwich, Derby, Ipswich, QPR. Rotherham also have a wage bill roughly 4 times ours due to the vast amount of money kicking around in the English lower leagues. And finally he’s gone to a job where there won;t be a huge amount of expectation. If he keeps them up, he’ll be deemed a success, and even if they only just get relegated after fighting bravely, then he’ll likely keep his job. Plus the fact he’ll now be earning much more than he was at Hibs. And finally, in a league sense, he failed at Hibs. Yes he rebuilt the entire team and made us more pleasing on the eye, ultimately his remit was to get us back in the Premier league, for that reason alone, I’m happy for us to move on to someone new. After the cup win, Alan Stubbs and John Doolan leave with my best wishes, and will always be welcome back down Leith.
And thats where we’re at. 2016 Scottish Cup Champions, but without a manager, and a requirement to get out of the Scottish Championship this season. As I write this, it looks as if Neil Lennon is a done deal, with The Sun, BBC and Sky all reporting that he’s agreed to join and should be announced later today. If that is the route we have decided to go down then I am 100% behind it. I’ll be honest, he wouldn’t have been my choice, but then I wasn’t 100% sure on who I really wanted, except maybe Pep Guardiola, but unfortunately Man City got in there first.
I can’t quite put my finger on why he isn’t my favoured choice. On paper he should be. Led Celtic to 3 Scottish Premiership titles as well as a few cup wins – although as Ronny Deila found out, this is the absolute minimum expected of a Celtic manager in the last few years, so is that really a huge achievement. My Optimist side is clinging to 2 points tho from his Celtic days. 1 – He was expected to win these titles, and he DID. So he can handle the pressure, and knows how to break down teams that sit with 10 men behind the ball, which will be absolutely vital. 2 – What he achieved in the Champions League cannot be sniffed at. Qualifying for the last 16 while beating the best ever Barcelona team shows he knows how to adapt his team and get them working for each other. I don’t want to look at his time at Bolton too much. He was clearly doing the job with one arm tied behind his back due to them being in a mess financially, although he did do a good job to keep them up in his first season. There is stories about how he isn’t a great coach, and doesn’t really buy into the whole sport science side of things (although that is purely heresay) but then also he is regarded as an excellent man manager, so like always, I will focus on the positives. At the end of the day, he has 1 job. Win the league. And when that has been his target before, he’s delivered. He is lucky to be going into a team with a good structure in place and some excellent footballers. Hopefully he uses his contacts to pull out a few great signings for us. There is absolutely no reason why we can’t romp the championship this season and add 2017 Scottish Championship Winners to our list of recent honours alongside 2016 Scottish Cup Champions.
On a final point, lets hope the new appointment continues to inspire fans to buy season tickets for the coming season. People have moaned about us not showing ambition in the past. The one thing I can’t deny is that this appointment 100% shows real ambition by the club. They’ve brought in a manager that most thought would never be interested in the job, that just 3 weeks ago was on a shortlist of 3 for the Celtic job. It was great to see Leeann’s announcement that we’ve had over 1000 NEW Season ticket purchases from last season, and with around 2000 still to renew from last year, it great to see us really pushing to get to that 10,000 Season ticket figure. That would be simply outstanding for us in the Championship. Hopefully the feelgood factor from the Cup win, and the ambition of the new Managerial appointment convinces people to part with their hard earned cash. The club is really doing their bit. We need to buy into that ambition now and get behind them, allowing Lennon to bring in some quality players. I know people argue that they don’t want to spend close to £400 watching Dumbarton & Ayr, but the ticket is to watch HIBS, and it will be money well spent if we’re winning every week and end the season with another reason to celebrate.