Hibs boss Neil Lennon has admitted keeping Manchester City kid Brandon Barker beyond the end of the season would be a pipe dream, while describing his performance against Rangers as “breathtaking”.
However, Lennon hopes the 21-year-old’s loan spell at Easter Road will lead to more of the English Premiership leaders’ young players arriving in Edinburgh on similar deals in future, just as they have at Celtic in recent years.
Lennon has long been an admirer of Barker, once attempting to sign him when he was in charge of Bolton Wanderers, and believes Hibs fans are now seeing the best of a player who enjoys a searing turn of pace.
Barker twice hit the post against Rangers in midweek after making an appearance as a second-half substitute, Lennon adamant that his players face Aberdeen this afternoon with their confidence high despite losing a game in which he insisted the Ibrox outfit had “taken a battering”.
“He has brought an extra dimension to the way we play,” said Lennon of Barker, who also confirmed that Hibs are in talks with former Dons forward Niall McGinn, who watched Hibs’ 2-2 draw with Celtic as a guest of the club. “We have Martin Boyle one side and him on the other, they are a real threat. I just enjoy watching him play.
“He is a throwback. He wants to get to the byeline, he wants to get inside, he has that dynamic burst of pace, he wants to take people on. Some people say his end product is not great, but that’s nitpicking completely. When you have three players hanging off you, you are running 40 yards with the ball at that pace, it is a very difficult thing to do.
“He is a very exciting player. I have admired him for a long time. On Wednesday you could see why; he was breathtaking. He’s improving. It’s the best I have seen him. He seems to enjoy the big games. He has been fantastic, absolutely brilliant. I wish he was ours permanently.”
Lennon, inset, conceded however, there was little chance of that happening. “You’re talking Manchester City here. You’re talking wages, a transfer fee, so it might be just a little bit out of our remit. We were quite keen on Louis Moult – but he’s gone to Preston for half-a-million pounds. It’s very, very difficult.
“We’re enjoying having Brandon here, he’s enjoying being here. It seems to be working successfully for both parties. We’ll see where it goes, but a permanent move would be very difficult to do I would think.”
Meanwhile, Lennon insisted it would “not be the end of the world” if Hibs were to lose today at the end of a schedule in which they have played their three biggest rivals in the Premiership in just six days although, obviously, he doesn’t want the gap to the Dons stretch to nine points.
He said: “We were ten points behind them round about October time and we got it back to maybe three points, or even one, at one stage. I’d ideally like to win then the positive slant is you are only three behind and they have to play Celtic, Rangers have to play Celtic.
“It’s been a tough week, the third game in six days, so it is a big ask. But we have played fantastically well against two of the toughest opponents you are going to get – so I am looking for the same.”