Graeme Mathie expects summer movement but Hibs prepared to play hardball with English suitors
Big-talking English clubs who venture into Scotland with short arms and deep pockets are unlikely to get the deals they are hoping for at Hibs, according to the club’s sporting director Graeme Mathie.
Fed-up of cross-border bargain hunts, he claims it is about time interested buyers paid a realistic market rate for Scottish talent.
Under no pressure to sell, despite the fact that numerous Easter Road stars are on the shopping lists of several big-spending clubs, he says any offer would have to adequately remunerate the Leith outfit and leave them time to recruit a replacement. The fact they have already knocked back seven figure sums for Kevin Nisbet, Ryan Porteous and Josh Doig gives his statements credence.
“I am quite relaxed when I negotiate things but it does annoy me when people speak to us about some of the players the way they do but then value them the way they do.
“I don’t understand why they see Scotland as such a poor market. Look at the players who have left Scotland. John McGinn is one of the best midfielders in the English Premier League, Andy Robertson is one of the best left-backs in the world, Kieran Tierney is lighting up the Premier League as well. These are young players who have come through three different Scottish clubs and are doing incredibly well at the top end of the league and that is just three off the top of my head. So, I don’t understand why the next conversation about a Josh Doig, or a Ryan Porteous, a Kevin Nisbet or others turns out the way it does.
“It is proven that we can produce players who are able to perform at the top level so why should we not be compensated. That is the one thing in negotiations that gets me upset a bit, especially when you speak to people and they say: ‘This is where we expect him to play, we think he will be a starting player or go and perform at this or that level’. Well, that’s great but why are you discussing numbers that are not even close.”
While huge sums swirl around the English game, even a couple of tiers below the billionaire clubs in the Premier League, the Scottish market is often regarded as a cheaper option.
That infuriates Mathie, who says he is thankful that shrewd contract agreements with the majority of the Easter Road squad and an understanding owner mean he does not have to entertain derogatory bids.
“It is always my kind of comparison, if such and such a player was playing in English League One, you would be offering a number significantly higher, so why would we sell?
“At the moment we are in a good place. We finished third in the league, got to the latter stages of the cups and we are going to compete in Europe so there is value associated with Hibs players.”
Assured by owner Ron Gordon that business dealings are weighed up alongside the ability to deliver success, Mathie believes he is an ideal negotiating position.
“His big thing is always how can we continue to be competitive. If the right bids come in at the right level and it makes sense for everybody and we think we can replace the players and still be successful then great but if not then he is certainly not banging my door down and asking who is leaving. It is the opposite.”
“The first thing is we have good contract control over most of the group. Jackson [Irvine] and Ofir [Marciano] are the two main first team players whose contracts are up and it was good to get Dan Mackay done as early as we did. That was an area that we talked about wanting to improve on and he is a young, talented, exciting player and in the conversations we had with him and his agent they said they had seen the work being done at Hibs and wanted him to be part of that and they thought moving here would be good for his development.”
The former Inverness Caledonian Thistle winger addresses the desire for a left-sided forward but the club remain in the hunt for a centre-back and a striker, regardless of whether Porteous and Nisbet move on.
“We are pretty clear on the two main areas we want to recruit and we are down the line on some conversations. Then it is the same as every other club, we are prepared for movements in and out if and I’m sure there will be a bit of both between now and 1st September.”
The Euros and a number of youth internationals do appear to have slowed things down, but Mathie says that regardless when the merry go round really gets going, Hibs will be ready, although, with the squad returning for pre-season on June 28, he would like to settle matters sooner rather than later.
“A lot of agents are saying that the market seems to be really slow at the moment. But, as I said, we are in a good place in that we control most of the scenarios and I think it is incumbent on us to get the right value for Scottish talent.”
Whether that comes from south of the border or bigger and wealthier Scottish options.
“As has been reported there has been interest in some of the players so the sooner we can get a resolution, one way or the other, the better it is so we can go and try and finalise the squad that is going to take part in Europe for us.
“Particularly in the forward areas where there are not a huge number of players that are available, who want to come and are of a level where they can improve what we’ve got and will come within budget. Those four things need to align for us to get something over the line.”