Hibs winger Alex Harris today clinched a new three-year deal which will keep him at Easter Road until 2017, just days after making his comeback from a broken ankle.
The 19-year-old made a huge impact in the closing weeks of last season, not least his spectacular strike in the Scottish Cup semi-final which sparked a stunning fightback against Falkirk, with Hibs having been three down at half-time.
However, a lunge by Motherwell’s Shaun Hutchinson on the opening day of the season left the youngster sidelined for five months, but now his return to action has coincided with a new contract, much to the delight of boss Terry Butcher for whom, in effect, the former Edinburgh Academy pupil has become a first signing.
Butcher said: “I’m really excited that Alex has put pen to paper and that he will be a Hibernian player for a long time. We’re delighted to have him back from injury and part of our long-term plans. Alex came off the bench on Saturday and did well – his performance improved as the game went on and that augurs well for the future.”
Negotiations over a new deal had dragged on for some time, although Butcher had expressed his optimism that the issue would be satisfactorily resolved, which it was, leaving Harris to concentrate on holding down a first-team place, having made 19 appearances so far.
Harris said: “I’m delighted to have agreed a new contract. Hibs is my home and I’m really pleased that the deal has been agreed.
“My long-term goals are to establish myself in the first team, build on my performances from last season and help push the team up the league.
“The new manager has already shown a lot of faith in me, which is really encouraging. I just want to kick on from here.”
While happy to have seen new deals finalised for Harris and fellow youngster Jordon Forster, who signed a new contract only a few weeks ago, Butcher is intent on bringing new faces to Easter Road this week, with his squad having been left threadbare by injuries and suspension ahead of Sunday’s visit from champions Celtic.
Defenders Paul Hanlon and Ryan McGivern have already been ruled out through injury, while midfielder Scott Robertson will serve a one-match ban.
Danny Handling is battling a heel problem which kept him out of the defeat by St Mirren along with Hanlon who, Butcher hopes, will recover from this thigh strain in time for the Scottish Cup clash with Raith Rovers on February 8 although McGivern is expected to be “out for a while” having damaged a hamstring in the early minutes of the Saints match.
Butcher named only six substitutes at the weekend, citing injuries and the fact he felt others “didn’t deserve” a seat on the bench as he overlooked the likes of Kevin Thomson, Tom Taiwo, Rowan Vine and Tim Clancy. Admitting a few “might have to come out of the deep freeze”, the Hibs boss added: “I’m not saying I am going to do it.
“I’m just saying that might have to be the case. It’s something I do not want to do, but at the end of the day I will have a look and see what we can get in. If we can get one or two in this week then that would certainly help the situation and that’s what we will be working very hard to do.”
Butcher has been frustrated so far in his attempts to bring new faces to the club, although he has always insisted he expected any “business” to be concluded in the second half of the window. He added: “We’ve made progression on that front but we’ll certainly try to conclude that this week if we can.”