IBROX, I’ve missed you. Five years after his last visit, Neil Lennon said last night that he was savouring his return to Govan this afternoon as manager of Hibernian. While he could hardly fail to acknowledge the “darker side” to his visits to this stadium – the hatred and venom so often aimed in his direction – the Northern Irishman also said he had missed the theatre of it all. While this match-up would be potent enough without his involvement, as it is the first meeting between these two teams since their powder-keg 2016 Scottish Cup Final, Lennon conceded that part of him will lap up being centre stage again, the archetypal pantomime villain.

“Yeah I have missed it,” he said. “Who wouldn’t? You miss the drama and the intensity and the theatre of it. That’s what it really is, theatre. It’s sport, it is entertainment, and there is a darker side to it sometimes. But hopefully it can all be kept within the confines of the game.

“I do enjoy it [going there],” he added. “Yes, there can be some venomous things said, but there can also be a lot of humour there as well. You can’t take yourself too seriously there. I enjoy getting off the bus. I enjoy walking out on to the pitch. I enjoy winning there – when you win it is a great feeling. So I want my players to go and enjoy that experience as well.”

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Since his first visit there in 2001 – a 3-0 win that put the gloss on Martin O’Neill’s first season at Celtic – Lennon has run the full gamut in Govan but feels he has more good memories than bad. But he has been at the centre of incidents at Ibrox that long stick in fans’ minds, such as his first SPL red card after the final whistle from Stuart Dougal in 2005; and being paraded, arm in arm, by Martin O’Neill in front of the Celtic fans after a 2-0 defeat in 2004.

As regards his managerial record at Ibrox with Celtic, he offers: “I did okay there as a manager. Had a couple of losses but won a few times as well. We had a great performance in the cup there when we were down to 10 men – we took Rangers to a replay and won it. And I won there a few times as a player. So I’ve had some really good days at Ibrox.

“There have been a few surreal things happen to me there over the years – going out on the pitch with Martin, being sent off after the game by Stuart Dougal... That really pleased Gordon Strachan! It’s all been part of the drama. This is different. I’m going there with Hibs. But there is still a good rivalry there.”

Lennon, of course, knows it is his players who are centre stage this time, not him. He is well aware that this is an emerging rivalry within Scottish football, born of events which pre-dated his arrival. If the seed of the enmity were sown in the manner these two sides vied for the Championship, they exploded with that incendiary Scottish Cup Final. However, he says that’s all well in the past.

“That is just a historical event now,” he said. “You’ve got two different managers and more or less two different sets of players. “What you don’t want – and this is a bit rich coming from me – is anyone getting over-emotional. Ibrox is a great amphitheatre to play in, and you’ve got to thrive on that. And I think we’ll be fine. We’re not just going there to make up the numbers.”