Lee Johnson believes Giovanni van Bronckhorst was Rangers’ fall-guy because the Ibrox side are ‘just not as good’ as their rivals, Celtic.

Johnson has lamented the kind of managerial merry-go-round that led to the sacking of van Bronckhorst just a matter of a few months after the Dutchman had steered the Light Blues to the final of the Europa League and to the Scottish Cup trophy. The Hibernian manager is convinced his counterpart deserved longer in the job.

“I’m always an advocate of keeping managers in situ because I think managers are often blamed for the results and normally there’s a bigger picture there,” he said. “I understand the pressure falls on the manager because it’s your name on the door. But if I believed I had the right man in place, I would give him an adequate amount of windows to change it round.

“I would understand recent success, I would look at the context. And I feel that, with Rangers, maybe the expectation was so high and sometimes you can be a victim of your own success. I think it’s a classic example of that. I suppose we’ll only know that in a year, 18 months depending on how the new regime does.

“I think Gio could walk away with his head held high, look himself in the mirror and know he’s done absolutely everything he can. Celtic are a top side and obviously they’re chasing those guys.

“From my point of view, you look at it from the outside, they’re just not as good. Simple as that. I’m not there to judge, I don’t watch every game. All I see is a good man who’s worked his socks off and lost his job, and a good coaching staff.”

Johnson’s Hibs will provide Michael Beale with his first competitive test when the Easter Road side travel to Ibrox on Thursday. Rangers will be hopeful of benefiting from a new manager bounce in Beale’s bow, but Johnson is adamant snap judgements are not appropriate for new dugout incumbents.

The Herald: Giovanni van Bronckhorst was sacked in OctoberGiovanni van Bronckhorst was sacked in October (Image: SNS)

“The king is dead, long live the king and good luck to ‘Bealo' - after we’ve played them,” he added. “I don’t know him really well, we’ve bumped into each other at courses and stuff like that. Listen, he’s done well. He markets himself well, he worked really well with Steven Gerrard, he went down to QPR and had a good start.

“But I’m always one who says, ‘show me a manager after 200 games, when he’s been through everything’. So I think the jury is out on anybody until he’s had 150 to 200 games and been through the ups and downs that number of games creates.

“We do feel we can beat Rangers, but everything has to go right. We have to make sure we’re absolutely on point with our attitude, with out commitment, with our organisation, with our confidence, to go and get a result there.”

Meanwhile, Thursday’s encounter that brings to an end the Premiership’s World Cup hiatus will bring an eagerly-anticipated moment for Kevin Nisbet. The Hibs striker is expected to return following more than nine months out recuperating from anterior cruciate ligament damage sustained against Celtic in February.

After a cautious and comprehensive rehabilitation, and tests in friendlies against Middlesbrough and Raith Rovers, the Scotland internationalist is confident both the mental and physical scars of his injury have healed. He is now eager to display he has used his down-time wisely by proving he has returned a better player.

“I can’t wait to play Rangers,” he said. “I’m like a kid waiting on Christmas because it is a long time since I have played in the league. Physically and mentally I am ready to go.

“The first three months were the toughest and I think everyone who has done this type of injury would say the same. It is mentally tough not being able to do anything. You can’t drive or go for a coffee, you are basically sitting on the couch. When that passes and you start to do more in the gym you set goals and tick them off one by one and it starts to fly in. Now I am good to go.

“I can’t not give 100 per cent as I was desperate to get back. I got stuck in and I got over the mental scars quickly.

“I think I will come back a better player. I have been doing a lot in the gym and doing things that I couldn’t really work on when I was playing. I have had time to re-evaluate where I want to be as a player and how to get there. I feel better physically and mentally now. I had the time to put some stuff right and I feel people will see a different player.”