Neil Lennon has told anyone unhappy with Hibs’ use of emergency loans to “shut up”, insisting the Easter Road club haven’t broken a single rule or law.
The Capital outfit, which enjoys the biggest budget in the Championship, provoked some mutterings of complaint when they brought in Celtic midfielder Kris Commons over the festive period to counter the loss through injury of key players John McGinn and Fraser Fyvie.
And now, faced with central defenders Paul Hanlon, Liam Fontaine and Jordon Forster all being sidelined and his only fit stopper Darren McGregor suspended for Saturday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final against Ayr United, Lennon has again turned to an emergency loan, going back to his old club to sign Nigerian internationalist Efe Ambrose until the end of the season.
Lennon has also brought in former Motherwell and Falkirk defender Brian McLean, a free agent after being released from DPMM Brunei, who play in Singapore’s S League, with both likely to be in his squad for tonight’s Championship match with basement side St Mirren.
Aware those moves are unlikely to go down well with some, Lennon hit back, saying: “I know some people will moan – I know that. I could moan about other clubs spending too much money, going into debt, administration and stuff like that. But I don’t.
“I could moan about clubs going out and buying nine players in the January transfer window, but I don’t. We could have done that, but we might have stretched ourselves. This club runs the way we think is the right way – we knew the emergency window was an option.
“If it was taken away, then we wouldn’t use it. But it is there to be used, we’ve used it. We haven’t broken a single rule or law. If people are unhappy about it, then they can write to the SFA and ask them to scrap it.
“It’s an advantage to anyone that wants to use it – so shut up, shut up.”
And chief executive Leeann Dempster backed her head coach, denying Hibs are “playing the system”. She said: “The rules in the Championship exist for clubs to take a player on loan from a Premiership club. It’s the same rules for every other club. We are in a position where it is self evident that a number of our first choice centre halves are out.
“That’s there for everyone to see. We are in a league that allows us to do that. Any club is able to do it. Equally, any club is able to sign a player who is out of contract. So I don’t think we are playing the system at all.
“The rules exists and its incumbent on us to put out the best team on the park that we possibly can. The rules have been there for a number of years and are there for a good reason. I don’t have an issue with it.
“We need to be decisive and we needed cover before Christmas for midfield. It wasn’t a case of just doing it because we could.
“We genuinely wanted to bring in cover for midfield and we genuinely wanted to bring in cover for defence.”
Lennon revealed he’d immediately thought of Ambrose when Fontaine joined his ever-growing casualty list after suffering an ankle injury in Saturday’s draw with Dunfermline, the defender due to see a specialist on Thursday with the fear he may require surgery to repair a ligament which has torn away from the bone.
He made his move that night and believes Hibs have pulled off something of a “coup” in the 28-year-old wanting to join Hibs after a proposed move to Blackburn Rovers had fallen through due to work permit issues.
Lennon, of course, knows Ambrose well from their time together at Celtic and, he inssited, the player has been wrongly derided for mistakes he’s made.
Lennon said: “He has been at Celtic for four or five seasons now and it might not have gone as well as he would have liked in the last couple of seasons, but under me he was fantastic. The one thing about him was he was never injured. He has that fitness and elasticity in his body and added to that he has great pace, he reads the game very well and he can handle big opponents.
“I think the first four years of his time at Celtic have sort of been deleted from history the way people talk about him now. This is a guy who played in all my Champions League games, made the last 16, had some unbelievable results and he was a at the heart of it all. He has won the African Nations Cup with his country, so he has great pedigree.
“He is only 28, he is at his peak and he will be fresh because he has not played much football recently. People always talk about the mistakes he has made of late, the high profile mistakes. But we have all made them. I have mae plenty and I played with Bobo [Balde] who had a few in his time, he really did, but I don’t think he gets derided as much as people tend to mock Efe.
“Brian was a no-brainer. He is experienced, out of contract and I know him from his time with Falkirk and Motherwell. He’s been playing football at a decent level, albeit he hasn’t played for a few months. But it adds some bones to the squad.