Hibs boss Neil Lennon has insisted top scorer Jason Cummings is not for sale with English Championship sides Queens Park Rangers and Barnsley tracking the striker.
The Easter Road club turned down a bumper £1.7 million from Peterborough United last summer to underline their determination to hang on to their prized asset as Lennon helped persuade the 21-year-old to sign a new four-year deal.
But, while admanant he knows nothing of renewed interest in Cummings, Lennon insisted: “He is not for sale. I want to keep him. He is the leading goalscorer and I want to keep him.”
Lennon admitted he wouldn’t be surprised if others weren’t also on the trail of his hitman, who has taken his tally for the season to 12 with four goals in his last four games.
He said: “I want to look after business at our end. If he keeps progressing the way he is then there is no reason why there won’t be other suitors out there as well for him.
“I don’t think there is any hurry for him to go. Is he ready to go yet, is another question. We haven’t had a bid in so we’re speaking hypothetically here. I want him here because he is a very important player and we made that clear at the start of the season.”
Lennon admitted he’d been pleased with the way in which Cummings had reacted to being dropped earlier in the season, saying: “It wasn’t by design. We just thought he probably wasn’t hitting the straps as well as he could have done.
“Sometimes with young players you get peaks and troughs. We’ve taken him out, Martin Boyle has come in and done great. Jason’s come back in and been scoring so he’s certainly responded in the right way.
“There’s been no knocking on the door, no sulking and there shouldn’t be because we treat him the right way. We’ve looked after him and he’s certainly looking after us. Sometimes sitting out and looking at it you realise what you have to do and what you’re missing out on. That wasn’t deliberate.
“We just felt he needed taken out of the team because he wasn’t playing as well or his game was just a little bit off. But he’s certainly back on the boil now.”
Having signed former Motherwell winger Chris Humphrey, Lennon revealed he’s actively looking for further new arrivals in this transfer window while he conceded he was no further forward in his bid to tie down Kris Commons until the end of the season, the Celtic midfielder’s 28-day emergency loan ending after tomorrow’s match with Dumbarton.
Admitting a longer-term deal was harder to negotiate, Lennon said: “Both for the player and Celtic as well. It’s a question of finance as well, whether we can deal with a length of time.
“I think he is enjoying it here. It’s been good for him and it’s been good for us. We are four points clear which we weren’t when he came in. He won us the game with Falkirk and he played a big part in the game against Dundee United as well.”
Meanwhile, Hibs have announced Neal Eardley has joined Northampton Town after his short-term deal at Easter Road came to an end. The 28-year-old joined Hibs at the end of September and made only two appearances for the club, both as a substitute against Dundee United as he was unable to displace skipper David Gray at right-back.