Neil Lennon won’t be drawn into another verbal battle ahead of Hearts derby

A relaxed Neil Lennon refused to reignite his war of words with Craig Levein ahead of the Edinburgh derby on Friday night.

Levein sparked a reaction from the Hibernian boss after their last meeting when Hearts triumphed in the Scottish Cup and claimed the win would “restore the natural order” in the rivalry.

An angry Lennon responded at the time by describing the comments as “a crock of c**p”, but he refused to get drawn into another verbal battle ahead of their latest meeting on Friday, admitting he enjoys the “tamer” atmosphere of an Edinburgh derby.

“I enjoy these much more than I enjoyed the Glasgow one,” the former Celtic player and manager said. “The build-up isn’t as intense or as fraught, but the result is still the same and you want to win it.

“You know what it means to the support and the club so there is still pressure, but I enjoy these derbies.

“They are certainly a lot tamer than the Glasgow one but still a derby to be savoured and enjoyed.”

On getting personally involved, he added: “I’ve taken a step away from it on that side, some people can get obsessed with the rivalry and it’s the same in Glasgow as well.

“It’s a difficult thing to do to contain it, but I don’t have any problems with that and they (Hearts) don’t get under my skin at all.”

Hibs have enjoyed a hugely impressive return to the Premiership, currently sitting fourth and with realistic ambitions of breaking into the top three before the end of the season and Lennon is adamant that results against Hearts are merely a footnote in their campaign and he is not driven by revenge after the loss at Tynecastle.

He said: “I will not be defined as Hibs manager by derby results.

“If that’s what the Hibs fans are looking for, then they have the wrong man in charge.

“I’m looking at the bigger picture of taking the club on and progressing it, and if we can win derbies along the way then so be it.”

He added: “At the end of the day it’s a league game.

“There are three points there which is important if we want to keep closing in on Aberdeen and Rangers, so it’s vital we win the game from that aspect, the issue is that it’s a derby and you get the bragging rights for six weeks until you play them again.

“The important thing is to win the game. We’re not playing for a trophy, but a European place is as good as a trophy.”