Analysis: Hibs in strong shape with top men tied to deals
Hibs boss Neil Lennon will avoid a radical overhaul of his squad at the end of the season thanks to the speed with which the Easter Road club nailed down the majority of their Championship-winning players.
All of those facing the end of their contracts were offered new deals – skipper David Gray, Darren McGregor, Lewis Stevenson, Marvin Bartley, Martin Boyle and Ross Laidlaw all readily agreed two-year extensions while Liam Fontaine, who had missed the second half of the season with an ankle injury, signed on for a further 12 months.
The Capital club already had John McGinn, Dylan McGeouch and Paul Hanlon tied down beyond the end of the coming season and the core of Lennon’s squad was quickly strengthened as goalkeeper Ofir Marciano and Efe Ambrose – who had been at Hibs on loan – returned, the Israeli internationalist penning a four-year deal while the Nigerian defender agreed a two-year contract.
New arrivals Danny Swanson from St Johnstone and Dundee United striker Simon Murray added further depth as did the signings of Lithuanian internationialists, midfielder Vykintas Slivka and striker Deivydas Matulevicius while Steven Whittaker returned on a three-year deal from Norwich City and Republic of Ireland Anthony Stokes became a late addition as he agreed a third spell at Easter Road.
And, with promising youngsters Ryan Porteous, Oli Shaw and Fraser Murray on new deals, Lennon, who has added Dundee goalkeeper Scott Bain until at least the end of the season already this transfer window to cover for Laidlaw’s shoulder injury, faces the second half of the season with effectively only two first-team players whose contracts are running down.
Lennon has revealed initial discussions have taken place aimed at persuading midfielder McGeouch to stay while the future of Fontaine, 32 on Sunday, looks uncertain, the central defender having played only two first-team matches since last February having suffered another serious ankle injury at the start of the season.
In addition to that pair, Lennon has admitted retaining Manchester City winger Brandon Barker beyond the end of his season-loan loan deal is “a pipedream”.
Scott Martin is on loan at Arbroath presently but, while unable to claim a regular first-team berth in the face of competition from McGinn, McGeouch, Marvin Bartley and Slivka in central midfield, he still has more than two years of his contract remaining.
Others entering the last few months of their current deals are Sam Stanton who, it would appear likely, will finally sever his ties with Hibs at the end of the season having last pulled on a green-and-white jersey some 28 months ago and having subsequently gone on loan to Livingston, Dumbarton and now Dundee United.
Striker Lewis Allan would seem to be also heading for the exit door, the 21-year-old having made only two first-team appearances as a substitute for Hibs, spending much of his time on loan at Dunfermline, Forfar, Livingston and is now in a second spell with Edinburgh City.
Callum Crane extended his contract to this summer but now 21 the left-back has been on loan this season at Alloa and at his age will undoubtedly be looking for regular first-team football which, as in the case of Stanton and Allan, look to be elsewhere.
CONTRACTS ENDING SUMMER 2018
Liam Fontaine, Callum Crane, Dylan McGeouch, Sam Stanton, Lewis Allan. Loans ending: Scott Bain, Brandon Barker.
CONTRACTS ENDING SUMMER 2019
Ross Laidlaw, Efe Ambrose, Darren McGregor, David Gray, Paul Hanlon, Lewis Stevenson, Marvin Bartley, John McGinn, Danny Swanson, Fraser Murray, Anthony Stokes, Simon Murray, Deivydas Matulevicius, Oli Shaw.
CONTRACTS ENDING SUMMER 2020
Vykintas Slivka, Steven Whittaker, Scott Martin.
CONTRACTS ENDING SUMMER 2021
Ofir Marciano, Martin Boyle.
CONTRACTS ENDING SUMMER 2022