Hibs boss Neil Lennon has revealed the Easter Road club have knocked back a bid from a Turkish club for leading scorer Simon Murray.
The former Dundee United hitman has claimed 14 goals so far in a green-and-white shirt and, although he’s found himself slipping down the pecking order as teenager Oli Shaw has burst on to the scene, Lennon insisted the 25-year-old still has an important part to play this season.
Confirming the offer – believed to be from League One outfit Elazigspor – Lennon said: “We had an offer from Turkey for Simon Murray but we have not accepted that. As it stands, we’ll be keeping Simon unless another bid comes in that makes us think.
“I think it’s testament to how well he has done and I’ve told him that he should take it as a real compliment. It should give him a real shot in the arm. I think he is ahead of expectations after the first half of the season, so it’s excellent for him. We don’t want him to go.”
Rather than lose a striker, Lennon has added another in Australian internationalistist Jamie Maclaren, beating Capital rivals Hearts to secure him on loan from German club Darmstadt until the end of the season.
Asked what he believed Maclaren, who has joined his new team-mates at their training camp in the Algarve along with new goalkeeper Scott Bain, will bring to his side for the second half of the season, Lennon said: “Hopefully goals. His movement is very good, he’s very fit. His workrate off the ball is excellent.
“If you look at his record in Australia, it’s one goal in every two games and that’s a decent standard of football.
“The other side of it is he is hungry, he feels he has a point to prove – not to me or anyone else, but himself.
“And obviously he has the target of making the Australian World Cup squad, so we have got a very motivated player in the building. He will take a bit of time to integrate with the rest of them and it might take a bit of time to get used to the game. But his ancestry is Scottish, he has family in Edinburgh, so there is a comfort there for him straight away. We have been very impressed with what we have seen so far. But the main aspect is he’ll hopefully add to the goal tally.
“He’s similar to Simon, maybe not as physically strong. However, he’s quick and he sniffs out opportunities. I think he is smart, his football intelligence is good, and his movement off the ball is excellent, really good. When we watched footage of him we saw he is a good finisher once he is in there as well. So he has a sort of tunnel vision of how to play the game. His remit is to try and score goals.”
While Murray and Anthony Stokes have both moved into double figures in terms of goals, Lennon believes his side, currently sitting fourth in the Premiership table, should have scored more. He said: “We have had opportunities in games which have gone a begging, so Jamie’s just hopefully going to add to what we already have. We have pace in the team and he brings more. He’s not physically big but he is very, very smart and he likes to play on the shoulder. He doesn’t really get involved in the play a lot but we don’t really need that with what we have in the team.”
Lennon insisted he knew little of Hearts’ interest in the former Brisbane Road frontman, saying: “I don’t know how much was in that, I don’t know if he had spoken to Hearts or not. But we got the impression he was keen to come to us once we had done a bit of work on it. It was a good deal to get over the line early to get him integrated on this trip.
“He has another week of training before we start back, so we’re hoping it will be a good bit of business for us.
“Jamie went to Germany and I don’t think he fell out with the manager, the manager changed his policy of how he wanted to play. He’s fresh, he wants to play games so that hunger is something that appeals to me as well.”
Meanwhile, Lennon revealed there has been an enquiry from an unnamed club for Liam Fontaine.
The 32-year-old defender is out of contract at the end of the season, but it is understood Hibs have not acted on the interest.
Lennon is well placed to make further moves while in Portugal, with the club’s head of player identification and recruitment Graeme Mathie part of the travelling party. He said: “Graeme is out here and always on the phone. We have had a couple of enquiries for one or two players, but nothing concrete. We are prepared for any eventuality and you need to be in January – it can really wind you up a bit. We have the structure in place to handle whatever.”