Exclusive: Hibs boss talks potential permanent deals for Man Utd defender and Bournemouth attacker

Manager addresses influence of Bill Foley tie-in on budget and recruitment
Fish will be back in action against Rangers at Ibrox on Sunday.Fish will be back in action against Rangers at Ibrox on Sunday.
Fish will be back in action against Rangers at Ibrox on Sunday.

Hibs know they’re facing a battle to retain on-loan Man United defender Will Fish beyond the end of the season – but are determined to make themselves a viable option for a 21-year-old being pursued by a number of English Championship clubs. And any deal to bring Bournemouth playmaker Emi Marcondes back to Easter Road after the summer would have to fit in with the budget already established for Nick Montgomery’s planned close-season rebuild.

Fish is under contract with United until the end of season 2024-25, with an option to extend for another year. His second loan spell at Hibs has seen the youngster develop into an on-field leader – and raised his profile south of the Border.

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Asked earlier this week where he’d like to see himself in ten years’ time, Fish told the Manchester Evening News: "I’d liked to have racked up a lot of games, whether that be Championship, higher or lower, and then trophies. Trophies are a big thing and I’d love to win one or get promoted with a team and just enjoy it, to be honest.”

Montgomery admits the centre-half might feel he has to move on, saying: “If this is his last season, no doubt he’ll look back on it with really fond memories of building his character. But, for Will, I don’t think he really needs a pitch from us. He really enjoys playing for Hibs. He really loves the club, and I think he enjoys the way we play.

“Ultimately, it’s going to be down to what options he has. And there are probably going to be other clubs looking at his form this season, his games here.

“We are a big club. So, for Will, it’s going to be what is going to be the best option for him.

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“We’re definitely going to be one of those options. But I’m sure there will be many others. And, whatever happens, we’ll support Will in what that looks like.

“Will has really enjoyed his time here. I think he’s developed a lot and improved a lot. Right now he’s a player contracted to Man United. But I don’t think you can question Will’s commitment to Hibs. I think he’s given every piece of himself to the club since he arrived, certainly since I’ve been at the club, anyway.

“That’s one where we get through to the end of the season, and then there will be a conversation between Will, his agent and Man United. No doubt, if there was an opportunity to explore, that’s something we’ve already spoken to Will about. But right now that’s something that we won’t discuss until the season is finished. Then we’ll look at the situation as a whole.”

Fish has certainly improved over his two spells at Hibs. Anyone who remembers his first start – at right back in a 3-0 loss at Tynecastle in January last year – can testify to that.

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Montgomery, prepping his team to face Rangers at Ibrox on Saturday, said: “He’s a fantastic person and character, number one. I was told about his debut, starting at right back in a derby, and he’s the sort of kid who will play anywhere you ask him.

“But I think he’s definitely a centre back with a massive future ahead of him. To think he’s only 21 years old and he’s played the number of games he has, it’s brilliant.

“For about six or seven weeks there, he was probably the only fit recognised centre back we had at the club, with Rocky Bushiri away and Paul Hanlon sick. We even partnered him with Jordan Obita at one point.

“He’s been a rock for us all season. He’s had some difficult times, as well, and made mistakes. But that’s all part of learning. He’s grown, through that experience in a very good, very physical league – and that can only help him move forward in his career.”

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Admitting that he’d like to have a conversation with Marcondes – an instant hit with supporters following his January move from Bournemouth and out of contract at the end of this season – about staying beyond the summer, Montgomery quashed any notion that Hibs becoming part of Bill Foley’s Black Knight group gives them an edge, pointing out: “Look, that’s going to be down to Emi, as well. There’s no doubt we’d like to have a conversation with Emi. But that will be at the end of the season.

Marcondes celebrates opening the scoring in last month's draw at Tynecastle.Marcondes celebrates opening the scoring in last month's draw at Tynecastle.
Marcondes celebrates opening the scoring in last month's draw at Tynecastle.

“Right now, we’re concentrating on finishing the season strong. Because that can help us, as well.

“For me, it’s about Emi enjoying himself at the club. He obviously likes the city, I get on really well with him, as do the coaching staff and the players. Emi’s not a kid. He’s at a good age in his career and I’m sure, come the end of the season, we’ll have those conversations.

“Emi coming to Hibs will have to fit within the budget that we have. Nothing changes on that. But definitely we’d like to have those conversations with Emi at the end of the season, as we will over all the recruitment we’re looking to do in the off-season.”

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Expanding on how being part of Bournemouth owner Foley’s sphere of influence helped land Marcondes in the first place, Monty revealed: “Emi initially came through the Bournemouth connection, just when we looked at what players may be available. But he was out injured at the time, had been out for eight months.

“Coming off the back of a long-term injury, that was a reason why it was something that was possible. But, as I’ve already mentioned, myself and Ian (Gordon) took a taxi to see him in Dubai – so it was more about the personal connection than any Bournemouth connection.

“This was an opportunity for him to get his career back on track. And it’s not easy to get out to a club, in January, who will allow you to play games and get yourself fit. We’ve delivered on that for Emi, and he’s delivered in terms of giving everything back to the club, embedding himself with the fans and the club.

“The Bournemouth thing, it’s nice to be involved in a multi-club situation. But they’ve only got a small investment, they don’t make any decisions. As has been stated before, they’re willing to help us out if there are players there who we feel can help us.

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“It helped us having that contact, initially, not just with Emi but with Nathan Moriah-Welsh having been a young player at Bournemouth. He was the sort we were looking for, so it made the connection easier.

“But it’s definitely not a must that we’re going to bring in players who are at Bournemouth. That’s not how it works.”