Lee Johnson coy over Hibs links with Sunderland's Bailey Wright but admits: 'I want players who can hit the ground running'

Hibs manager Lee Johnson wouldn’t be drawn on talk of a reunion with Bailey Wright but insists the Easter Road side are in the market for ‘players who can hit the ground running’.

The Sunderland defender has been linked with Aberdeen, but Johnson has twice signed the Australian internationalist in previous jobs and after his remarks in the wake of last weekend’s 2-2 draw with Dundee United about needing leadership at the back, 30-year-old Wright would certainly fit the bill and the Evening News understands there is interest in the player from Hibs.

Speaking ahead of Sunday’s Scottish Cup fourth-round derby with Hearts, Johnson said: “Bails has been my captain twice at two different clubs. He’s a good player. Unfortunately I can’t talk about it because he’s not my player, he’s a Sunderland player.

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"We will take the best possible players for the best possible price. We are looking for players who can hit the ground running. You don’t want to spend six to eight weeks trying to get someone fit. It’s not an easy window to get that. If you are taking someone off a subs’ bench who’s been idle for a while, or a young player who’s maybe not experienced the tempo, or an older player who needs a consistent flow of games then that’s a bit delicate for any club in this window. We need instant impact, not six to eight weeks.”

Bailey Wright applauds the Sunderland fans after a Sky Bet Championship match against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road

Johnson wouldn’t say explicitly if Mykola Kukharevych’s injury had altered his January plans but with the Ukrainian forward sidelined with a knee injury for the foreseeable future, and fellow strikers Momodou Bojang and Elias Melkersen no longer at the club, there may be a need to bring in a forward. However, the manager insisted he wanted to improve in every area of the pitch.

“We need to improve everywhere. I’m upset we have conceded as many goals as we have,” he admitted. “I play attacking football and we’ve had a couple of big losses, so I feel like we need to improve everywhere. There’s a number of ways – coaching, developing, spirit, having a smaller squad with more quality. That’s where we’re trying to progress. But we’re still at stage two of 10 probably in my mind of where we need to be moving forward.”