Hibs’ hopes of enticing Marc McNulty back to Easter Road appear to have risen after Reading boss Jose Gomes revealed he needs to slash the wage bill by moving players on – and fast.
Gomes axed McNulty from his squad shortly after taking charge of the Royals despite more than £1million having been spent by his predecessor Paul Clement on signing the striker from Coventry City only months earlier.
McNulty spent the second half of the season on loan with Hibs, scoring eight goals, winning his first two Scotland caps and helping the Capital club clinch a top-six finish in the Premiership.
But with three years remaining on his Reading contract, McNulty was ordered to report back to the Madjeski Stadium for pre-season training starting on July 1, ten days after Hibs return to work, even although Gomes has made it plain he won’t figure in his plans.
Admitting he’d love to join Paul Heckingbottom’s squad on a permanent deal, the 26-year-old conceded there would be difficulties in making that happen, although the Hibs head coach has insisted he’d do all he could to bring him back to Edinburgh.
However, Gomes has now revealed that he needs to reduce his wage budget and that he has until the end of next month to do so and allow him to start chasing his summer signing targets for next season’s Sky Bet Championship campaign.
The Portuguese boss has indicated he’s made up his mind as to which players he needs to be moved on, saying: “For me the picture is clear, the success of next season depends on these next two or three weeks.
“We need to reduce the budget and the number of players we have to get some money and make a good job of the following weeks. How we work in the next two or three weeks is key for the new season. It will be difficult and some things aren’t in our hands, but it’s our job.
“We have players that have finished their contracts and others still under contract, but we must find a way to resolve the problem because they can’t go on with us any more.
“We have others that have finished their loan but we don’t know if their clubs accept that they can return. We have until June 30 to make money with players and we must now put everything on the table and make decisions.”
Gomes intends to speak to his players about his plans, adamant that even if they are not happy with his decisions, they’ll understand the finances involved.
He told the Reading Chronicle: “I have a clear picture which players we must move on and which we should bring in if we can. Now is a question of starting to do this, but first we must move players and find a space to bring in targets.”