JAMES McPAKE and Tom Soares are ready for a challenging start to their Hibs careers by taking on Rangers at Ibrox on Saturday.
The experienced pair, signed on loan for the rest of the season, are in contention for the SPL encounter in Glasgow this weekend as Hibs, one point above bottom-of-the-league Dunfermline, fight to stay off the foot of the table.
Former Livingston central defender McPake, 27, has joined the Edinburgh club on a temporary deal from Coventry City, while Soares, a 25-year-old midfielder, arrives at Easter Road from Stoke City.
McPake says he is keen to help shore up a porous Hibs defence on Saturday.
“I’m really pleased to be on board with Hibs and can’t wait to get started – I’ll be counting the days until the match at Ibrox,” he told the official Hibs website.
“Ever since I moved down the road, I’ve watched a lot of SPL football and I cannot believe a club of Hibernian’s size are in the position they’re in. In order to get us back on the right track, we’ve got to give everything in every match – something that I’m planning to do. That starts at Rangers on Saturday and, if I’m selected, then I will hopefully add a wee bit of steel and commitment to our defence.
“We need to be harder to break down and I will be doing everything I can to make that happen.”
McPake’s fellow loan signing Soares said: “I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen at Hibs so far and now I want to repay the manager’s faith in me by delivering some performances in the team.
“I’ve settled in quickly and I’ll be ready for Rangers, if selected by the manager. I’m really hungry to get my career back on track and to show the Hibs fans what I’m all about.”
Soares, a former England under-21 internationalist, was signed by Stoke two-and-a-half years ago in a £1.25 million deal after making 150 appearances for Crystal Palace.
In recent years, the central midfielder has grown accustomed to relegation battles such as that he will face at Hibs, having suffered demotion on three occasions.
McPake began his career at Livingston and spent almost ten years at the West Lothian club, graduating from the youth team before making over 100 senior appearances. He joined Coventry in the summer of 2009 and made 38 appearances for the Sky Blues scoring one goal. However, he has spent large parts of his time there injured.
Hibs now have four players on loan from English clubs, with Leigh Griffiths having joined from Wolves and Norwich City defender George Francomb also on a temporary contract.
However, manager Pat Fenlon may have competition as he tries to bring in a fifth player in the shape of Stoke midfielder Michael Tonge, who has attracted the interest of Championship club Barnsley.
Tonge has failed to make an impact under Tony Pulis since his £2m transfer from Sheffield United in September 2008 and is understood to have held talks with Barnsley.
Meanwhile, Hibs striker Leigh Griffiths will discover tomorrow if he’s to be punished for the third time this season after allegedly being caught by television cameras making a “one-fingered” salute to fans during the weekend defeat to St Johnstone. He has already served a one-match ban for his gesturing towards supporters during Hibs’ 2-0 defeat by Rangers in December and again during the Scottish Cup win over Cowdenbeath at Central Park.
Although Hibs and Griffiths contested the offer of a suspension from the Scottish FA’s compliance officer Vincent Lunny on that occasion, he lost his appeal, meaning will miss out on the cup tie against Kilmarnock.