Hibs drop threat hits Pat Fenlon’s summer plans

Pat Fenlon

Pat Fenlon

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Hibs boss Pat Fenlon has admitted the Easter Road club’s ongoing battle to free themselves of the threat of relegation is hindering his preparations for next season.

Fenlon conducted a radical overhaul of the squad he inherited from Colin Calderwood during the January transfer window, bringing in seven new players in a bid to steer Hibs to SPL safety.

However, Fenlon is aware he’ll have to embark on another major revamp before the start of next season with many of his players either coming to the end of their contracts or the loan deals which brought them to Edinburgh at the start of the year. Goalkeepers Graham Stack and Mark Brown will soon be out of contract as will Ian Murray and Garry O’Connor, but January arrivals James McPake, Tom Soares, Matt Doherty and Roy O’Donovan are all due to return to their parent clubs, as are Leigh Griffiths and Richie Towell.

Like every other manager, Fenlon has been identifying potential signing targets, but he admitted his hands are somewhat tied until Hibs’ future is determined.

In recent days, the Irishman has been linked with the likes of Partick Thistle’s Paul Cairney – watching the midfielder score a hat-trick against Dundee at Dens Park last weekend – Dundee United’s Leith-born winger Danny Swanson, Barry Nicholson of Preston North End and Morton’s French youngster Fouad Bachirou.

Confessing to a feeling of “frustration,” Fenlon pointed out he isn’t in the position as yet of being able to say Hibs will be in the SPL or First Division next season although Hibs do hold a six-point advantage over basement side Dunfermline with only four games remaining.

Players who he believes will improve his squad are hardly likely to commit until they know the exact position.

Fenlon said: “We’ve been watching players, we’ve had people out all over the place watching games looking at players for next season but at the moment I’m not in a position to do anything.

“In relation to the players already here who we want to keep, we want to be able to give them that peace of mind as well. But we are in control of our own destiny.”

Hibs defeated Sunderland 1-0 in a closed-doors match, their goal coming via the penalty spot from Eoin Doyle.