Hibs chief executive Leeann Dempster today insisted there was “no desire” within Easter Road to see players leave during the January transfer window, with the entire focus purely on gaining promotion from the Championship.
Dempster conceded speculation regarding a number of Alan Stubbs’ squad is inevitable, with striker Jason Cummings in particular said to be attracting the interest of a number of English clubs, Leeds United’s name being added to a lengthy list which also includes Sunderland, Brighton, Fulham and Rotherham United.
But the Edinburgh outfit’s firm financial footing, as detailed in the latest accounts just released – net debt halved and a cash balance of £2.7 million despite a loss of £800,000 to the year ending on July 31 – means they are in a strong position with, Dempster revealed, boss Alan Stubbs more likely to add to his squad.
Any such business, Dempster disclosed, is likely to be done “quickly and decisively”, although Stubbs’ mantra of “quality rather than quantity” will again be adhered to, with Stubbs determined that the harmony within the dressing-room and the momentum which has been building isn’t affected.
Accepting players who are doing well will attract attention from elsewhere, she said: “Jason and others are undoubtedly doing well at the moment, but we are focused on one thing only and that is winning things. I suspect there will be a lot of speculation coming towards us in January, but we want to focus on winning the Championship and progressing in the cups as far as we can.
“We are not entering the transfer window thinking, wondering what is coming, what is round the corner, We have no desire to do anything in terms of players going out, that’s not our direction of travel. It’s more likely players will coming in. If it’s the right player or players we have the ability to do that and Alan knows we have the ability to do that.
“If we decide to do something in January it will be, should be, done quickly and decisively.”
Dempster pointed to how Hibs had moved quickly at the end of last season, tying up skipper David Gray on an extended deal and agreeing new contracts with Liam Fontaine, Lewis Stevenson, Mark Oxley, Fraser Fyvie, Martin Boyle and Danny Carmichael, while also signing James Keatings and Marvin Bartley although patience was also shown in bringing in John McGinn, Antonio Reguero, Dylan McGeouch, Darren McGregor and Jamie Insall along with, on loan, Liam Henderson, Islam Feruz and Henri Anier.
And she doesn’t expect Stubbs to change tack now by making any signings simply for the sake of it. She said: “Alan is very single-minded as to what he wants. You can see that in the quality of players coming in. David Gray was the first signing and he has been outstanding since the day he waked through the door and is a fantastic captain of this club.
“I think every players that’s come in beyond that has performed equally as well. I think clearly in the football department we have made some good signings. We moved early on to try to secure players and we did a lot of business in June which gave great confidence to players who could finish up, have their summer break and know they were coming back to a football club that really wanted them and a manager and coaching team that wanted them.
“I think we have generally the right number of players at the moment. We talked about having a smaller, tighter squad with more experience and we have cover now in most positions. I think we need to be convinced players coming in are going to add significantly to that, while we don’t want to break up any momentum.
“Everyone is firmly of the view that any more additions have to be competitive and add value to the squad. I think you are always considering movement in a transfer window. You are always anticipating opportunities that might present themselves and are always looking.
“But equally I think if we went through the transfer window and the right player did not come towards us, I still think we have a great, strong group of players to take us to the back end of the season.
“We are heading towards the business end of the season, the semi-final of the League Cup, the Scottish Cup proper kicks off and, of course, there are the Championship matches to be played. We have to make sure we go in to it with the strength, depth and quality to take us through that very important core period.
“Alan knows what he wants. We have a very good dressing-room and anyone coming into that environment has to be able to add real quality to that squad.”
Dempster also believes the players brought into the club have “bought into” what has been going on at Easter Road in recent months, saying: “Everybody is very positive, that’s just an atmosphere you have to work to create. That means that people are not only willing to do what is expected of them, but they do it with a willingness and happily.”
As always, head of player identification and recruitment Graeme Mathie will play an important part in the coming weeks, but he has also overseen a redevelopment of the youth structure at Easter Road which, following a drive for new staff, has pulled in 30 people as youth player ID scouts, recruitment administrators and lead scouts, taking the number involved up to 40.
Dempster said: “Graeme’s first year was all about the rebuild, now it is much more developed and it will continue to grow and grow, to get better and better.
“The important thing is there is a structure and protocol to theie reporting, they are coming back with the information in the context we have asked for. It means nothing to come back from a game and say,‘that No.8 had a brilliant game, we’ll keep an eye on him’. How many times have you heard that before?
Now they go with a set criteria to specifically assess the players and we’ll have four, five, six or seven live views before it even gets anywhere near the management team.”