Hibs boss Pat Fenlon today urged Hibs fans not to expect too much too soon from new French signing Abdellah Zoubir.
The 21-year-old winger, right, last week agreed a season-long loan from Ligue 2 side Istres on, as the Evening News revealed, the recommendation of former Hibs midfielder Freddy Arpinon, who is now football director at the Provence club. Zoubir has caught the attention since arriving in Edinburgh, scoring twice in a bounce match during a week’s trial at East Mains and then claiming another double as the Capital club beat Rangers 3-1 in a closed-doors match in Glasgow earlier this week.
Such exploits have led to a clamour among fans for the Lille-born youngster to be pitched into the team for the trip to St Johnstone a week on Saturday.
But, while Zoubir will undoubtedly be in Fenlon’s thoughts for the visit to Perth, the Irishman has cautioned against burdening him with the weight of expectation.
He said: “Abdellah will be a good player for us. He’s fast, can play either side and is different to what we have, so he’ll give us a different dimension.
“But he is a young player who has come to a new club, a new country and to a different style of football. He also doesn’t speak too much English so it’s a case of him settling in and I’m sure he’ll prove to be a valuable addition to the squad.”
Club skipper James McPake and fellow defender Tim Clancy also featured in the friendly at Murray Park but, Fenlon revealed, neither will play in Saturday’s East of Scotland match against Berwick Rangers at Shielfield Park.
Kevin Thomson made spectacular use of last weekend’s 9-0 victory over Hawick Royal Albert, the midfielder asking to play as he was suspended from first-team duty, only to find himself catapulted into the Scotland squad for the World Cup double-header against Belgium and Macedonia 48 hours later. But as McPake, who hasn’t played since the second leg of the Europa League tie with Malmo, and Clancy, out since the end of April and having undergone a groin operation, ease themselves back into action, Fenlon won’t be taking any risks.
The pair could get more game time when Hibs face Motherwell in the Under-20 League at East Mains on Monday but the Hibs boss wouldn’t expect either to be in his plans for Perth. With Paul Cairney having resumed training, Fenlon is, at last, delighted to see his casualty list diminish, with only Alex Harris, who broke a bone in his right ankle, still some way off a return.
There are minor worries, though, over Danny Handling and Ryan McGivern, who both picked up injuries in last Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Ross County. Handling was forced to pull out of Scotland’s Under-21 European Championship qualifier against the Netherlands with an ankle problem, and McGivern is nursing a knee knock and, as a result, rated “an extreme doubt” for Northern Ireland’s World Cup clash with Portugal in Belfast tomorrow.