New signing Darren McGregor is likely to be pitched straight in for his Hibs debut against Stranraer tonight as captain David Gray sits the game out to recover from a niggling back injury.
McGregor finalised a two-year deal with the Easter Road club yesterday, 24 hours after terminating his contract with Rangers, where he had fallen out of favour under new manager Mark Warburton.
The 30-year-old, a boyhood Hibs supporter who can play either centre-back or right-back, is poised to make his bow in the League Cup second-round tie at home to the League 1 side.
“He hasn’t had a lot of football but he’s been training and Stranraer might be a good time to try and get some minutes under his belt,” said head coach Alan Stubbs. “He has obviously wanted to play for Hibs since he was a young boy so it’s great that I am in a position to give him a debut and he can fulfil a dream he’s had for a long time.”
Stubbs admitted he has surprised at being able to land McGregor, who was Rangers’ player of the year last season.
“It wasn’t until Monday that we were aware something was going on,” he said. “Once we had heard that Darren had been released, we made our intentions known to his representatives. We were in there straight away because we know he is a quality player. From then onwards Darren wanted to come here and I just left it to other people to organise and sort the contract out. It was done very quickly in the end. When we spoke to Darren he was a free agent so we’ve done everything right. I’m surprised but delighted.”
Stubbs has been looking at several defenders this summer, including Keith Watson and Paul Watson, but he feels McGregor fits the bill perfectly.
“We had a couple on the horizon that we were maybe looking to pursue but when Darren came about we thought let’s move quickly on it,” he said.
“He is different to what we’ve got because he is someone who just enjoys defending.
“He is aggressive, very strong, athletic and one-v-one he is very good. In today’s game we always look at the ball-playing centre-backs, but you can never have enough good defenders in your team.”
Stubbs hopes McGregor can ease the burden on his backline as he has been operating with just four fit senior defenders – Gray, Liam Fontaine, Paul Hanlon and Lewis Stevenson – so far this season. His arrival is timely as Gray is set to be rested tonight to allow the back problem that forced him off against Rangers on Sunday to subside in time for Saturday’s Championship game at home to Raith Rovers.
“David’s not out because he’s not available. We decide to leave him out because he came off at Ibrox with a tight hamstring rather than it being a strain.
“It seems to be coming from his back, so we’re just going to give it a few days to settle down. We feel he will be available for Saturday.
Stubbs intends to add a striker before the transfer window closes next week, although he refused to be drawn on whether or not that might be Theo Robinson, the 26-year-old Jamaican internationalist who has been on trial at Hibs after leaving Doncaster Rovers.
“It is there for everyone to see – we’re going to look to bring in another striker,” he said.
“But I’m not going to speculate on trialists. We’ve had lots in over the last few days and weeks. We’ve still got time to make sure we get the right one.”
As revealed in yesterday’s Evening News, summer signing James Keatings is in line to make his Hibs debut tonight after recovering from a hamstring injury.
“Whether it’s 30 minutes, 45 minutes, I think we will try to get him involved,” Stubbs added.