Two key figures at Hibs have offered an insider’s view of the Easter Road side’s transfer activity ahead of the January window.
Head of Football Operations George Craig revealed that he isn’t a fan of scrambling last-minute deals over the line, instead preferring to get any targets in the door in plenty of time.
And planning for every transfer window ‘starts as soon as the last one closes’, according to Head of Player Identification and Recruitment Graeme Mathie.
Speaking to the Daily Record, Craig said that transfer deadline day was ‘box office’ for Sky Sports presenter Jim White, adding: “He needs football clubs to be disorganised to play into his hands, to give him the drama he needs - I’m trying to avoid that because I don’t think that’s good. I’m not in the business of helping him with his career. I’m in the business of making sure Hibernian do things properly.”
Craig’s arrival at Easter Road heralded the start of a complete overhaul at Hibs, following the side’s relegation from the top flight. And while the first team squad is put through its paces on the East Mains pitches, inside the Hibernian Training Centre, a close-knit team in the training centre’s Performance Analysis Suite drill down into a player’s vital statistics including - but not limited to - minutes played, injury history and character references.
Mathie is at the heart of this, leading a team of scouts and analysts who whittle down lists of up to 3,000 potential signings that have been identified by, or recommended to the club between each transfer window.
The Performance Analysis Suite isn’t just for scrutinising players - it’s also where targets can be sold on signing for Hibs.
One of the key ingredients in this approach is what the club refer to as the ‘relocation video’ - a short film that covers the history of Hibs with legends scattered throughout soundtracked by Sunshine on Leith.
It prompted midfielder Vykintas Slivka, a summer signing from Juventus, to get to his feet for a round of applause.
But the act of signing a player still starts and ends with the manager. Mathie’s team carry out work based on detailed criteria from Neil Lennon about what to look for in targets.
Mathie, a former Celtic scout, hails the work done by Dempster and Craig to help take the club’s player recruitment to the next level.
“There’s a huge number of people involved in our process and the board, Leeann [Dempster] and George [Craig] deserve a huge amount of credit for backing me to develop the department.
“The research and information is key. We have [university] interns who come in and that’s a key part of what they do.
“They’ll look at injury history, character references, minutes played – as much as we can to give us a rounded view on the player.”
After that, Mathie says, a decision has to be made on whether the club should send a scout to watch a player in action.
“We don’t have the budget to send guys all over Europe,” he says. “But if we’ve done the research we can then say it’s time for somebody to actually go and have a look.
“It’s really important to have both. When you go and watch a player you get a handle on the tempo and style of football they’re playing and it can give you a totally different perspective.”
But all the data and statistics in the world can’t replicate seeing a player in action which, at times, can be at odds with the analysis already collected admits Mathie.
For Dempster, player recruitment is a key part of what goes on at Hibs.
“It’s fair to say there was a recruitment structure at Hibs when I arrived, but it wasn’t one we’d have recognised as wanting to deliver. There’s been a big emphasis put on the department and it’s changed quite significantly.”
“We have to be planning well in advance and we’re probably at a stage now in our time at the club where we’d like to retain the players that are here already.”
Revealing that recruitment is the largest element at the club in terms of resources, Dempster finishes by saying: “That will continue to be the case because it’s the biggest opportunity for us as well.”