Neil Lennon has insisted Scott McDonald pleaded with him to reopen talks after the Hibs boss pulled the plug on the Australian striker’s proposed move to Easter Road.
Lennon admitted to being “livid”, accusing the Motherwell hitman of being “economical with the truth” after the 32-year-old suggested that, while there had been interest from Hibs, he’d only ever got as far as talking to Graeme Mathie, the club’s head of recruitment.
Lennon insisted a deal had been thrashed out with McDonald’s agent only for the player to fail to appear for a medical, Mathie telling Lennon that the player wanted to “renegotiate” at which point he called a halt to proceedings.
Lennon, who had previously accused McDonald of having messed Hibs about, said: “He’s been really economical with the truth. First of all, we did not approach him, he approached Hibs. He approached me saying he wanted to come here and work with me.”
An initial offer, said Lennon, fell short of McDonald’s expectations as he felt it might, contact having been made via e-mail and text message and, after Mathie had negotiated over the weekend before last, the manager spoke directly to the player’s agent.
He said: “It got to the stage where it had gone on for three or four days, so I rang his agent. I asked what it would take to get the deal done and he told me. I spoke to Leeann [Dempster, Hibs chief executive] and she said, ‘yes we can do that’.
“That was last Tuesday. I got back to his representative and said we’ve agreed everything that you and the player want. I said I expected to see him at the training ground on Wednesday and he said ‘that’s great’.
“I came in on the Wednesday and there was no sign of him. Graeme told me he (McDonald) wanted to renegotiate and I said ‘No. Deal’s off’. I told Leeann and the staff the same. I told the agent to tell the player the deal is off and that’s the end of it.
“On the Wednesday afternoon, I was having a meeting with my staff and he was ringing and texting, pleading to get the deal back on. We wouldn’t shift on it.”
However, Lennon was incensed when on Friday afternoon – after signing a new deal at Fir Park – McDonald said: “It [a move to Hibs] was a possibility but I don’t think it was ever there. I didn’t speak with a chief executive or a manager for a couple of weeks. I spoke to Neil a couple of weeks ago, but in terms of being down the line I spoke to their head of recruitment and that’s as far as it got.
“Hibs knew what I was offered here [at Motherwell] so we never really got to a ballpark [figure]. It’s a great club and something that I was interested in, but I had time to reflect and I wanted to come back here [to Fir Park]. I always had it in my mind that Motherwell was a club where I love playing.”
Lennon, though, described what McDonald had to say as “nonsense”, adding: “I don’t mind him gaining kudos with the Motherwell support, but certainly not at the expense of me and Hibs.
“This is me putting the truth out there and that’s why I was livid with the way it came out on Friday. Was I expecting him here on the Wednesday morning? Yes, that’s the impression I got from the agent and the player and then the goalposts were moved again.
“Enough was enough. It was us who pulled the plug on it, not him. He was ringing in the afternoon trying to get it back on and said to the public completely the opposite two days later. That’s alright, but not at my expense.”
Lennon revealed he has since received a text from McDonald saying they must have got their wires crossed, but he insisted: “I certainly didn’t have my wires crossed. I didn’t like what I read on Friday, that was him covering his own tracks. As far as I was concerned, we agreed everything and then it moved again.”
Meanwhile, Lennon revealed Mark Oxley remains at Easter Road despite being linked with a move to English League One club Southend United, their boss Phil Brown having said he expected the goalkeeper to have reported for signing talks yesterday.
But, while confirming he is in the market for another goalkeeper – Conrad Logan’s short-term contract having come to an end, and with former Raith Rovers keeper Ross Laidlaw in on trial – Lennon said: “Mark is still here at the moment. There’s no change there.”
Lennon’s first signing, striker Grant Holt is expected to play some part in tonight’s first pre-season friendly against Berwick Rangers at Shielfield Park.