Hibs boss Alan Stubbs was today continuing his hunt for a striker despite the closure of the transfer window.
It is understood Stubbs had hoped to bring in a new hitman before last night’s deadline after signing Celtic midfielder Dylan McGeouch and Southampton forward Jake Sinclair on season-long loan deals. But although he didn’t succeed within that time frame, the head coach has identified a number of free agents and expects to have a ninth arrival of the summer in place within the next few days and certainly by the time Hibs face Cowdenbeath a week on Saturday.
The long-term injury suffered by top scorer Farid El Alagui – he’ll have an operation tomorrow on his ruptured Achilles’ tendon – makes it a necessity to find a replacement in the same mould as the French-Moroccan star, as he isn’t expected to return to action until the end of January. Today Stubbs, who has released midfielder Owain Tudur Jones from his contract, admitted he was “devastated” for El Alagui who he felt was just finding his form having scored four goals in five appearances.
He said: “It’s a big blow, he was becoming a real handful for opposition teams. Farid has been brilliant around the dressing-room. Unfortunately, injuries are part and parcel of football, but I’m devastated for him. I don’t think we’ll be seeing him back within four or five months but we’ll make sure he gets the best care we can possibly give him.”
El Alagui suffered the injury as he landed awkwardly on Alloa’s artificial surface following a first-half aerial challenge and was obviously in pain as he was stretchered off with Hibs leading 1-0. They eventually lost 2-1, but Stubbs was convinced his side would have gone on to win had the former Falkirk and Brentford player remained on the pitch.
While freely admitting he’s no fan of plastic pitches, Stubbs was unwilling to speculate as to whether the nature of the surface had played any part in the severity of El Alagui’s injury, insisting: “I’m no specialist.”
However, while the signings of both McGeough and Sinclair were in the pipeline before the events of the weekend, Stubbs agreed El Alagui’s lengthy absence had “put a different slant on everything”, adding: “The fact our main striker is out just reinforces the need and desire to bring one in as soon as possible.”
Stubbs, though, was delighted to have signed 21-year-old McGeouch and Sinclair, the 19-year-old younger brother of Manchester City star Scott. He said: “They will offer us something different and strengthen out attacking options. Dylan came to us with a high reputation earned at Celtic and we see him playing in a more central role in midfield.
“His energy and quality will give extra impetus to the team and we’re looking forward to seeing him perform for Hibs.
“Jake will give us a few options in attack, through the middle and out wide. He is a really exciting player with genuine pace who can hurt the opposition. He is an up-and-coming talent who we’ve been aware of for some time.”
Meanwhile the exit of Welsh internationalist Tudur Jones brings the number of departures from Easter Road since the end of last season to 18, with 14 players immediately released by former boss Terry Butcher and James Collins, Ryan McGivern and Michael Nelson having left since.
Tudur Jones was signed by Pat Fenlon on a two-year contract from Inverness but made just 19 appearances for Hibs, the last of which was as substitute in the Petrofac Training Cup defeat by Rangers at Ibrox.