HIBS boss Pat Fenlon today revealed some of the loan players he’s drafted in for the battle to beat the drop have a long-term future at Easter Road.
Skipper James McPake, defenders Matt Doherty and George Francomb, midfielders Tom Soares and Richie Towell and strikers Leigh Griffiths and Roy O’Donovan are all due to quit the Edinburgh club at the end of the season as their short-term deals expire.
But Fenlon is keen to keep a number of them, with fans desperate to see former Livingston stopper McPake, who has had a massive impact since arriving from Coventry, stay along with lifelong Hibs fan Griffiths, on loan from Wolves.
As the Evening News disclosed, Fenlon has been working hard behind the scenes to identify potential signing targets, anxious to make his move once Hibs SPL status has been secured. But while new faces are expected – and Fenlon has been linked with the likes of Dundee United’s Danny Swanson, Paul Cairney of Partick Thistle, Preston North End’s Barry Nicholson and Johnny Hayes of Inverness Caley – he made it clear a number of those he brought in during the January transfer window will be at the top of his list.
He said: “It is frustrating that I can’t plan as much as I would like for next season, but I can’t do anything about that, it’s something that’s outside our control at the minute.
“The quicker we do that the easier it will be for everybody, in relation to the players that are here and the players we might want to bring in. As soon as we get ourselves safe we can act on that, but we can’t do that at the moment.
“Yes, we’d love to keep some of the loan players. That’s the plan, to make sure we can keep some of the ones that are here, definitely. There’s a few of them.
“Without wanting to single people out, James has done great for us since he’s come up but he’s under contract at Coventry, so it’s not as easy as it may look.”
Griffiths, too, has another year of his deal at Molineux to run, his future there uncertain as after Wolves were relegated from the English Premier League and are looking for a new manager.
Fenlon said: “There are one or two we would love to keep on. There’s a few of them that we know we we’re not keeping on, because that was the conversation when we brought them up. But we have to wait and see how it develops.”
Although Hibs look as if 11th place will be the best they can hope for at the end of a disappointing season, Fenlon believes he has a platform to build on.
He said: “Defensively we look a little bit more solid. We’re in a position in the League we shouldn’t be in. We need to be able to strengthen and make sure that doesn’t happen again.”