Hibs transfer state of play: Will Easter Road side bring in much-needed reinforcements on deadline day?
We’re all familiar with the phrase, ‘a week is a long time in politics’ but it’s an eternity in Scottish football.
At 6pm on Saturday night Hibs striker Christian Doidge was speaking to the media after a disappointing defeat by St Mirren in Paisley. Fewer than four days later he had joined Kilmarnock on a season-long loan.
Shortly before Doidge addressed the press pack, Easter Road boss Lee Johnson had appeared to play down the chance of it being a busy transfer deadline day. Since then his side have been continuously linked with moves for Swindon Town forward Harry McKirdy. More recently QPR striker Macauley Bonne and Burton Albion’s Louis Moult, have also been mentioned as possible targets.
With the clock ticking down towards the window slamming shut™ at midnight on Thursday, will Hibs prove that they aren’t quite done in the market just yet – despite already bringing in 13 first-team players on a mixture of loan and permanent deals this summer?
Johnson and the recruitment team have been busy since the former Sunderland and Bristol City boss arrived in Edinburgh. Goalkeeper David Marshall’s return to Scotland had already been worked on with the new manager rubber-stamping the deal, while centre-back Rocky Bushiri and playmaker Ewan Henderson arrived on permanent deals after loan spells during the second half of last season and attacker Aiden McGeady reunited with his ex-boss at the Stadium of Light.
Defensive midfielder Nohan Kenneh pitched up from Leeds United, sold on the prospect of first-team football and was quickly followed by winger Jair Tavares as Johnson finally acquired a player who had been on his radar for quite some time. Young centre-back Kyle McClelland was signed after leaving Rangers, initially as a development-squad prospect.
Loan deals were struck for forward pair Momodou Bojang and Élie Youan while the defensive ranks were bolstered by the capture of Lewis Miller and Marijan Čabraja, the latter replacing Josh Doig after his £3 million move to Hellas Verona.
A sensational return for Martin Boyle was secured in early August shortly ahead of the first Edinburgh derby of the season while goalkeeper Ryan Schofield was brought in following long-term injury to Kevin Dąbrowski.
In terms of exits, goalkeeper Matt Macey returned to England with Luton Town and Doig sealed his move to Serie A.
Other departures included young forward Connor Young joining Rangers while a raft of players from last season moved on – Scott Allan eventually joined Arbroath, Jamie Murphy and Drey Wright joined St Johnstone, Alex Gogic rejoined St Mirren on a permanent deal and Paul McGinn moved to Motherwell.
Goalkeeper David Mitchell signed for Partick Thistle, and Sean Mackie joined Falkirk.
Defence, attack, but no midfielder?
Ideally Hibs would like to bring in a centre-back, given Bushiri is sidelined for at least two months, and a striker following Doidge’s temporary exit. That is easier than said than done, of course. Easter Road chiefs will be hoping to avoid a repeat of the final day of the January transfer window last season when a proposed move for Manchester City youngster Morgan Rogers fell through at the last moment, with Hibs working against the clock to bring in another attacker in Sylvester Jasper.
It could be argued that these two positions should really have been sorted quite some time ago. Even without Bushiri’s injury the club could have done with another body in the heart of defence, with semi-retired veteran stopper Darren McGregor named in the matchday squad for all five league games so far and McClelland, signed as a development player, required for first-team games. Paul Hanlon being sidelined until game three didn’t help either.
It remains to be seen if Hibs will get their priority signings before the deadline and even if they do, supporters will likely agonise at the lack of midfield reinforcements. But with Dylan Tait still a possibility to leave on loan, it’s clear that Hibs believe they are covered in midfield.
Josh Campbell, Jake Doyle-Hayes, Ewan Henderson, Nohan Kenneh, Joe Newell, and Lewis Stevenson can all play there in one position or another while the club is hopeful that Kyle Magennis isn’t too far away from a return to action, even though they need to be careful about rushing him back ahead of time.
Inevitably attention will turn to the youngsters. Hibs will be wary of placing too much expectation on teenagers but Murray Aiken and Robbie Hamilton have already debuted and Jacob MacIntyre continues to catch the eye and hit the back of the net with regularity for the under-18s and development side, as does Rudi Molotnikov, and all four have trained with the Easter Road first team so there are options there, and Allan Delferrière could be recalled from his loan at FC Edinburgh in January if required too.
Leaving it late
As for the backline, there was very real interest in Uruguayan centre-back Joaquín Sosa that fell through when CSKA Moscow got involved and he eventually joined Bologna, but it looks like Hibs will try for another before the window closes.
Johnson did hint earlier this summer that there might well be some last-minute wheeling and dealing, and any new arrivals will either have to be experienced or settle in quite quickly – for a 30-minute period in the second half against St Mirren, Hibs’ ten outfield players were all signings that had been at the club last year, which didn’t send a great message about the new boys.
It is clear that the squad is still gelling, which is perhaps to be expected given such a huge turnover – but the right signings on deadline day could help make a big difference to this Jekyll and Hyde Hibs team.