Former Hibs star Michael Weir believes the club are paying the price of success with potential suitors eyeing midfielder John McGinn only days after Jason Cummings was lost to Nottingham Forest.
Admitting it’s a worrying time for supporters, Weir insisted it was inevitable others would covet Hibs’ star assets with Ipswich Town said to have had a £1 million bid for McGinn rebuffed.
Whether Ipswich boss Mick McCarthy is willing to increase that figure in an effort to persuade Hibs to relax their grip, Weir pointed out that while Cummings’ goals had sparked interest so too will the fact that at 22 McGinn is already a regular in Gordon Strachan’s Scotland set-up.
“Once a young player gets international recognition, particularly at his age, other clubs are going to have a look,” he said.
“Anyone involved in the game knows how hard it is to come by a goalscorer like Cummings and he’d done that in each of the past three seasons so Forest stepping in didn’t come as a real shock.”
McGinn still has two years of his contract to run which gives Hibs a strong negotiating hand although Cummings departed despite having signed a new four-year deal only last summer, the belief being that he agreed to put pen to paper on the understanding the club wouldn’t block a move if the money was right.
Arguing the prospect of losing two of the brightest young talents at least proved Hibs were “doing something right” in terms of recruitment, Weir conceded that would be of little comfort to fans if the worst was to happen.
However, as history shows, every player, no matter the club he may be with, has a price. Weir expressed his hope that McGinn won’t move on – at least this summer – but admitted such situations are “the way of the world”.
He said: “From the first time I saw McGinn I thought he had a good future in the game, I’ve always liked him.
“Like Jason, he has been at the heart of the team over the past couple of seasons – young, talented players with a lot still to learn but with a lot of football still in them.
“But when you are successful it comes to the notice of other clubs. They’ll look at them and recognise the potential they have to progress and become better players.
“Neither Cummings nor McGinn has a really massive pedigree at the moment, they still have a lot to learn but they are young talent and clubs look for that – players they can make better and sell on themselves.
“Good players are hard to replace and those who play in the middle of the pitch and up front are always sought after.”
On the plus side for Hibs is the fact that McGinn appears happy at Easter Road where he is a popular and highly valued member of Neil Lennon’s squad, and the club, as they prepare for a return to the Premiership after an absence of three years, are under no pressure to sell.
Weir believes Lennon would have a major say in matters as he seeks to build a squad which he is determined won’t simply make up the numbers in the top flight but make an impact while McGinn himself, with his grandfather Jack a former chairman of Celtic and whose brothers Stephen and Paul are professional footballers, won’t be short of advice.
And he claimed Hibs could make a huge signal of intent by trying to persuade McGinn to sign a new contract.
He said: “I think the club should pull out all the stops to try to tie him up for a bit longer. It would certainly be in their interest to keep a player who is only going to get better.
“However, as well all know, a contract is just a piece of paper. And as we have seen down through the years, there does come a point when an offer comes in which a club – any club, not just Hibs – can’t turn down.
“There is also how the player feels about things. If he thinks a move is going to benefit him, both financially and in terms of becoming a better player, then that’s something I totally understand.”
Pointing out that Hibs chairman Rod Petrie has a reputation as being one of the game’s toughest negotiators, Weir went on: “He will get what is good for the club but knowing Neil he would be disappointed if Hibs couldn’t keep McGinn.
“He’d want to put his own questions to the board but sometimes the manager can only do so much, if the offer is too good to resist and the player wants to go then that’s something that happens in football.
“There is also the question of how a young player will handle all the speculation although McGinn appears to be a very level-headed kid.”
There is also the added time pressure of transfer dealings in modern football.
Added Weir: “In my playing days, transfers could happen any time but with the window system it means everything is condensed into these short periods which just heightens everything.”