Leeann Dempster has insisted there is no need for Hibs fans to begin panicking about the lack of new arrivals coming to Easter Road, adamant Neil Lennon’s squad doesn’t need major surgery.
Chief executive Dempster pointed out that, in fact, the Edinburgh club only has Dylan McGeouch out of contract, with Lennon revealing that, as yet, he hasn’t had any negative feedback from the midfielder to the “good offer” he has been made although the newly capped Scotland player is said to be attracting interest from elsewhere as is John McGinn as he enters the final year of his deal.
The futures of Flo Kamberi, Scott Allan, Jamie Maclaren and Brandon Barker who spent last season on loan in Edinburgh have also yet to be determined although Lennon is hopeful the Swiss striker will return on a permanent deal, Hibs having agreed a transfer fee with his club Grasshoppers Zurich and are now in talks regarding his personal terms.
Lennon hasn’t given up on bringing Allan, MacLaren and Barker back, but has admitted that securing deals for all three is likely to prove difficult with their parent clubs Celtic, Darmstadt and Manchester City obviously having the final say.
But, insisted Dempster, today’s situation is entirely different to this time last year when the contract of virtually every player was about to expire with Hibs unable to enter into negotiations regarding new deals until promotion from the Championship was confirmed, while the likes of Ofir Marciano, Efe Ambrose and Andrew Shinnie had been loan players.
While Marciano and Ambrose returned on permanent deals, Shinnie along with Fraser Fyvie, James Keatings, Brian Graham, Grant Holt and Alex Harris all departed but Danny Swanson, Simon Murray, Steven Whittaker, Anthony Stokes, Vykintas Slivka and Deivydas Matulevicius were all signed.
Dempster said: “We had major surgery to do last summer in terms of keeping players who got us promoted but because of the nature of the Championship and finance, we basically had to go through the back end of that season in discussion with players.
“We were in contract talks but we could not actually get them to formally sign until we were absolutely certain we were promoted. To be fair to the players they are such a great bunch of pros, good guys and they were in it with us. They knew what the reality would be for us and the club should we not have been promoted and they were more than prepared to do that and I think we have to be grateful to them.
“We had to go through that, get them signed up and go into the summer needing to do quite a bit of recruitment. This summer, undoubtedly, we have some recruitment to do and people will point to the midfield and that it might possibly change – but that’s not quite certain yet.
“Equally, none of us would be doing our jobs if we did not know that’s the case, we know the guys’ deals, the length of contracts. We haven’t suddenly woken up and gone ‘wow, something’s happened’. We are preparing for eventualities. Neil has said potential targets have already been identified.
“This is work that’s been going on for years, looking ahead to future windows. That’s the life cycle in football. We haven’t just woken up and said we need to recruit x, y and z. We have players who are on loan but we have the opportunity to try to pursue the chance to get some of them to stay but, equally, if they don’t we have others who will come in.”
The potential targets pinpointed by Graeme Mathie, the club’s head of player identification and recruitment, and his team will, however, have to meet a strict criteria of fitting into Hibs’ “fast, high-pressing game.” But while new faces will arrive, the only question to be answered being how many, Dempster also stressed the requirement for Hibs to find and nurture their own talent, adamant that given the financial landscape facing Scottish clubs there was no alternative.
She said: “I think right from the start we have said we have a real belief in the club and a real belief in the plan we have been working to since we came in four years ago.
“Now we are back in the Premiership – and in my view we had a very good year – and that allows us again to continue on this path. Of course we look at things and ‘sense check’ them. We are not absolutely stuck one way or the other, we can change. But I think we have a solid plan and it’s a real belief in the kind of strategy which is dead straight forward.
“Do all you can to find, develop and effectively play and sell young players. That has to be an absolute mainstay for going forward otherwise it becomes really hard within the financial landscape of Scottish football to finance a club.
“That is one strand. The other is playing an attractive, high pressing style of football which, I think you will agree, we do that and that pleases the supporters.
“It’s very much the way we recruit our players. We don’t just recruit players because they have a range of skills in a particular area, but because they suit the way we want to play. We need to be participating at the highest level in Scotland in order to do all we can to be participating in Europe.
“That’s not a given, it has to be done through long-term planning, hard work and good squad management. That means transfers of players and we are able to do that, we are able to enter the transfer market. We have done that in the last two or thee years and we will continue to do so but in a measured and very thoughtful and tactical way.
“The other element is how we have involved supporters and people in the local community in Leith and in the Lothians who have really been re-invigorated by the big journey the club has been on over the last four years, the re-emergence of football in Edinburgh with ourselves and Hearts coming back from periods which have been difficult.
“That’s helped us financially to make some of the bold decisions we have made.
“I think it’s more of the same and that’s not because we don’t have another way of thinking about it, but because we have a real belief in what we do.”