NEIL Lennon couldn’t hide his amusement at the thought of him walking into Martin O’Neill’s office to tell his old gaffer that a thigh strain would keep him out of an Old Firm game.

“Could you imagine? You probably wouldn’t have seen me again for two years. John Clark would have put a pair of boots on before me.”

Not that the Hibernian manager would ever have tried to get out of any game in his day. He rarely missed out because that was his job. Being a professional footballer meant, and should still mean to his mind, that unless your head had fallen off you were available for selection.

Lennon is a modern manager but, and there is nothing wrong with this, he is also a man of his time.

The Irishman can’t get his head around the attitude of some players of today, and he was referring to his Hibs squad, when they claim to be injured and all they had was a slight knock. Steven Gerrard spoke about the very same thing not so long ago.

Lennon and Gerrard were different types of midfielder but both were warriors to whom missing a match through injury hinted at weakness.

Too often this season, Lennon has been without key players and he’s not always been convinced that his missing men were really not up to at least sitting on the bench.

This is a real bugbear for the Hibs manager and when he gets going on a subject he’s passionate about, it’s always worth a listen.

Lennon said: “I don’t know if it’s generational. It probably is. I think it’s since the mid-90s with the influx of foreign players and foreign managers, certainly down south, we now talk more about rest than we ever did.

“We talk more about rotation than ever and I think that’s an easy way out for players at times. Sometimes managers use it as a reason to leave players out. Ah, he needs a rest and leaves someone out.

"But in the main I think it gets into the players’ mentality that they need a rest. We never had that! It was 60 games a season.

“Snowflakes is the term people use but I don’t want to use that. The fact is you are never going to be 100 per cent fit when you go out on the pitch. Never.”

Warming to his theme, Lennon made the point that his older players at Hibs were not ones who would knock on the manager’s door complaining about some pull or tweak.

He’s not a ‘kids are too soft’ kind of guy but he does feel that today’s youngsters should look up to their experienced colleagues.

Lennon said: “It’s all about the will to play. I can’t compare my career and mentality to any other player, either players I played with or players I manage. Everyone is different.

Efe Ambrose didn’t miss one minute of one game this season. He didn’t miss one training session. Steven Whittaker is available for every game. Those two are playing at the highest level at big clubs. Maybe that tells you something about their mentality.

“Some players should look at them and say, ‘maybe I should take a leaf out of their book.’ Those two are the other side of 30 now. But you certainly wouldn’t call them snowflakes. And they could play,

“I wouldn't say it’s necessarily a modern-day player thing. The majority is down to the individual, but I do think sometimes we over play the rest thing. There is no reason why players can’t play three games a week and then so the same the following week.

“They train better than we ever did and all the facilities are there for them. The hydration, the nutrition, the football stuff. If you are focussed and that’s what you want to do then if you put your mind to anything you can achieve what you want.

“I don’t like having a big squad. But if they’re always going to get injured on me I need a big squad.”

Talking about squad size, Lennon needs players in. He’s lost Ambrose, Martin Boyle might be out for 12 weeks and Emerson Hyndman has returned to Bournemouth. And Hibs were short when the three of them were about.

Lennon has had to get used to losing his best players, John McGinn and Dylan McGeoch last summer, and it’s not easy to continually replace genuinely good players on a budget.

And it's the loss of Ambrose, who became a cult figure in Leith, which will prove to be a big loss.

Lennon said: “Look, when Efe made a mistake he really made a mistake. But it’s absolutely unfair to concentrate on them but it’s a harsh environment being in Glasgow.

“This is a player who won the African Nations, played in the Champions League last 16, won championships and won cups, and the guy was an elite footballer, certainly at Scottish level.

“And I think the Hibs fans who are what Mourinho would call the Einsteins of the game were sort of scratching their heads at us bringing him in but by the time he left they were singing his praises about how good a player he is.

“He did us a real favour. I’m not going to go into the finances of it but for us to have him for as long as we did have him was a bonus.”

And to return to ‘snowflakes’ Lennon couldn’t help but look to what he did as a player.

He said: “It frustrates the life out of me. I had a really bad injury when I was a kid, I was out for a year and a half with my back and I just didn’t want to miss another game if I could avoid it.

“When you’re at any club, especially at the top level, you want to play because somebody could come in and take your place and you could be sitting on the sidelines for a long, long time.

"I can’t force them to play, I can’t make them play, I’ve never done that to any player, but I do sometimes think some could push themselves through a little bit and then they’ve got three or four days to recover for the next one.

"‘I’ve got a niggle, I’m out’. Come on! There used to be a thing called Deep Heat!”