Major Hibs boost as Premier League loan star allowed to extend stay

Man United have no plans to recall key defender

Will Fish is going to finish the season with Hibs following talks with parent club Manchester United. And the central defender is likely to be joined by more interim acquisitions as Nick Montgomery pursues convenient loan deals – easier to get over the line than permanent transfers - during a busy January window.

A break clause in Fish’s loan arrangement means United could recall him, most likely in order to loan him out elsewhere, before the end of the month. But Montgomery has revealed that the Old Trafford hierarchy are satisfied with the grounding Fish is receiving in the Scottish Premiership.

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“This is a situation we’ve spoken about,” said Monty, the former Central Coast Mariners boss adding: “I don’t think there is any danger in Will moving on. Fingers crossed, he’s going to be here for the season. Unless some offer comes in for Will that he can’t refuse – and Man United can’t refuse.

“But nothing has changed. They’re happy with his progress, Will is really happy here. So hopefully, once we get through this window and Will stays, he’ll be here for the season. I think he’s really enjoying his football at the minute, so fingers crossed.”

Montgomery has spoken previously about his desire to retain Fish – still just 20 and under contract with United until the summer of 2025 – on an extended contract. Subbed very late as Hibs made tactical changes in pursuit of an equaliser in Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with Motherwell, Fish had previously played every available minute since Monty’s arrival in September.

The youngster has also expressed hopes of remaining at Easter Road. Clearly the manager’s No. 1 choice at centre-half, his availability for the rest of the current campaign is a major boost to a Hibs side with ambitions to qualify for European football.

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And the Hibs gaffer has explained that, despite the lack of control involved in loan deals, he’ll probably be shopping in the short-term market as he looks to add four new faces to his squad this month, Montgomery admitting: “It’s very hard to bring players in on permanent deals in January. It’s a better opportunity to bring in potential loan players that can come in and help us, and us help them get out of clubs to play games. The clubs help us by giving us good players, that’s the whole point of a loan system.

“There’s no point in bringing loan players to sit on the bench. I’ve got young players on the bench, and I don’t want to block their development, and that’s all you’re going to do if you bring in loan players to sit on the bench.

“I’ve got Rudi Molotnikov, Rory Whittaker, and Josh Landers. They’re the academy products we want to try and develop. We have to bring in players that can make an immediate impact and start games of football for us. If not, we’re not really progressing.”

Admitting that it’s difficult to find loan players able to step straight into first-team football, Montgomery said: “Yeah, but if you do the recruitment right, there are quality players out there who are close to playing in good teams, and for whatever reason they’re not getting regular game time. The opportunity for them to go out and play games is why the loan system is attractive, but we have to make sure the players coming in are ready, if not the first week, then within a few weeks. That’s the recruitment we work on; it’s not easy.

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“Ideally, any players coming in will go with us on the winter break, that’s the ideal scenario. We go away on January 9 for a week and come back.

“But sometimes the reality is clubs won’t let players go until they get their own targets, so as much as we want them in as early possible, there can be a knock-on effect and we have to wait until the last minute.

“All we can do is continue to work hard in identifying players. Sometimes that changes on a daily basis. So you have to look at option number two or three or four. We can only do what’s within our means and there is no magic wand. Most teams are going on a break but ideally, we would like to get them in between now and the 9th of January. But ultimately, it is not down to us.”

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