Neil Lennon: Hibs will work hard to be ready for Europa League kick-off

Hibs boss Neil Lennon says the club has not received any bids for star midfielder John McGinn
Hibs boss Neil Lennon says the club has not received any bids for star midfielder John McGinn

Hibernian manager Neil Lennon is relishing the new season, with European football "to get their teeth into."

And, having learned that he will have the biggest budget an Easter Road boss has ever had, he is hoping to add to his squad over the next few weeks.

"We're going to try and be competitive," Lennon told BBC Scotland.

"The club's healthy which is great, we know the realism of the budget as well, so we'll try and use the money as wisely as we can."

Hibs will enter the first round of Europa League qualifying after finishing fourth on their return to the Premiership.

"We had a great year last year, but it's gone and we've got something to really get our teeth into when we get back early for the qualifiers, so that's very exciting," said Lennon.

"We're back on the 18 June so between then and the 12 July there's going to be a lot of work being done on the training ground and behind the scenes as well."

The Hibs boss is still hopeful that out-of-contract midfielder Dylan McGeouch might yet stay on at Easter Road.

"We're still in the hunt and in the mix for Dylan," he explained. "That might be a long shot, but there's still a realistic opportunity there.

"I'd love to have him, he was fantastic for us, and you see him now playing for Scotland and he doesn't look out of place, so he's really blossomed over the last season in particular."

Neil Lennon and old adversary Ally McCoist were playing in a charity match in Airdrie
Lennon and old Rangers adversary Ally McCoist (right) were playing in a charity match for the St Andrews hospice on Saturday

McGeouch made his international debut in Wednesday's 2-0 defeat in Peru and was joined in the starting line-up by Hibs team-mates John McGinn and Lewis Stevenson, with Lennon saying it was a "real boost" for the Edinburgh club.

"There's an enormous sense of pride there, seeing these players perform for their country," he added. "But we know that there are going to be suitors out there. John's got a year left (on his contract) and that's puts us in a difficult position, but we'll see what the future brings, we can't predict what's going to happen.

"If we can't (keep key players) then we look to build again and that can be difficult and frustrating but we've set a good bar and that's the aim for next year."

Loan players Scott Allan, Brandon Barker, Jamie Maclaren and Florian Kamberi served Hibs well last term and Lennon hopes to see at least two of them return.

Kamberi scored nine goals in 14 appearances and Hibs have an option to buy the 23-year-old Swiss striker, while midfielder Allan has spoken of his desire to return for a third spell.

Flo Kamberi impressed after moving on loan from Grasshopper Zurich in January
Kamberi impressed after moving on loan from Grasshopper Zurich in January

"We're in negotiations with him and his representatives and we've got a deadline with Grasshoppers in the middle of June so we're hoping that will come to fruition over the next week or two weeks," said Lennon.

"Scotty is obviously a Celtic player, so it's great that he'd like to come back but that would be Celtic's decision not ours. He's a player who blossomed again and had a fantastic second half of the season."

Lennon was a Uefa Cup runner-up with Celtic as a player in 2003 and took the Glasgow club to the last 16 of the Champions League as manager in 2013.

His first competitive match with Hibs was a Europa League meeting with Danish side Brondby in July 2016, losing out on penalties.

"We had a little bit of an expedition when I was only just through the door really," he recalled. "We lost 1-0 at home and had a great win in Copenhagen. The players showed that they can perform at that level.

"You need a bit of luck with the draw in terms of travelling and the opposition but it's not insurmountable and it's something that we've earned the right to be in.

"We'll be working really hard to try and get things right for the start because you have to hit the ground running and hopefully make some progression."

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