Hibs facing Kevin Nisbet and Ryan Porteous conundrum - with an Anthony Stokes tale to look back on
As it stands, there is a lot on the line for Kevin Nisbet and Ryan Porteous as they wait to see where they will be playing out the remainder of this season.
But, arguably, there could be even more at stake for Hibs manager Jack Ross, who will have very little time to action a back-up plan should the club accept improved bids for two of his main players.
The transfer window is set to close on Monday and one of Ross’ predecessors knows what happens when a star player is sold off and there is no time to replace him. The cost of doing business, it tends to be the manager who pays the price.
That was the case for John Hughes back in 2010.
The season before had been a good one, with the Easter Road club finishing fourth and qualifying for Europe. But, like this season, Hibs had been challenging for the very highest positions in the league table before a downturn in fortunes produced just two wins in 13 games. That skewed perceptions and meant that Hughes would have to get off to a flier the following term.
His hopes of doing that stalled, though, when, in the final hours of the summer transfer window, the club sold top striker Anthony Stokes to Celtic. It robbed Hughes of a talismanic forward, who had weighed in with 23 goals the previous year, and left him with no time to fill the sizable void. A couple of months later, it cost him his job.
Fast forward to this season. Should Birmingham return with an enhanced bid for the club’s top scorer Nisbet or Millwall up the ante in trying to lure defensive ever-present Ryan Porteous – a man who has played every league game for the Leith side this term – down to The Den, things could get tricky.
Owner Ron Gordon has apparently stated that there is no requirement to sell the players, running talk of covid firesale off the road, but every club is a selling club when the right sums are offered. If the deals are struck early enough, there should be cash and time to bring in reinforcements, but without enough of either, Hibs’ season is jeopardised.
With Livingston breathing down their necks, they need to strengthen and not be weakened, but if they turn down decent bids, they could be left with resentful players who had aspirations to better themselves financially and test progress down south.
That could dilute the club's appeal when it comes to future signings. Viewed as a team who develop players and then allow them to move on, they can attract some of the best young talent but if they are seen to hold those same youngsters back, things could turn.
Both players are young, both have shown themselves to be level-headed and professional. Whether it is in this window or one in the future, both would surely have other opportunities – but nothing is a given in sport. Porteous knows that only too well, with a bad injury wreaking havoc on last season and the international incentives at that time.
Nisbet and Porteous are in the matchday squad for Saturday’s match at Tannadice. But, how long they remain in the fold will determine more than their own futures.