Hibs failed to replace Porto and Nisbet - and can't make same mistake again

Ryan Porteous and Kevin Nisbet both left Hibs last year - and left huge gaps still in need of filling.Ryan Porteous and Kevin Nisbet both left Hibs last year - and left huge gaps still in need of filling.
Ryan Porteous and Kevin Nisbet both left Hibs last year - and left huge gaps still in need of filling.
Mission impossible? Exit of more key men puts spotlight on recruitment

Replacing the irreplaceable. If the scouting department of the average Scottish Premiership club had to whip up one of those mission statements beloved by the army of corporate blaggers occupying positions of power across the game, that promise to do the impossible might just do the trick.

At Hibs, of course, they could also add something about selling the unsellable. Until the Easter Road club succeed in pulling a few Del Boy-style antics to ship some dubious stock currently filling up every spare nook and cranny at their East Mains holding depot, there won’t be any room for arrivals.

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But let’s assume, for a minute, that Hibs can find homes – temporary or otherwise – for the guys under contract but incapable of contributing to the first team. And focus on the need to plug some enormous gaps in a starting XI incapable of making the top six last season.

No-one at Hibs needs reminding about the impact of financial realities on even the most astute recruitment strategy. You can’t spend what you don’t have. And, looking back no further than last season, the Edinburgh club can point to two glaring examples of departures that blew a hole in their best-laid plans.

Hibs have failed to recover from losing Kevin Nisbet’s goal production, certainly. The former Scotland striker’s move to Millwall in May of 2023 was not compensated for, fully, by the arrival of Dylan Vente.

And surely no-one would pretend that Ryan Porteous, now of Watford and likely to start Scotland’s opening game of their Euro 2024 campaign against hosts Germany, hasn’t been missed from a defence prone to lapses and collapses over the campaign just ended. If finding a like-for-like replacement for both Porteous – who moved on mid-season after signing a pre-contract - and Nisbet was always going to be a tall order, Hibs have certainly fallen short in both positions.

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Looking ahead to a summer window vital to all the grand plans drawn up by Malky Mackay, the Gordon family, Bill Foley and his Black Knight group, then, let’s take a look at the priority men whose departures will be most keenly felt. And assess the chances of Hibs replacing the evacuees with suitable recruits:

Myziane Maolida

Gone for good, the Comoros international scored 11 goals in 17 starts for Hibs. Which, to save you doing the maths, equates to a pretty damned good scoring rate of about 0.65 goals per game. Elite level production, in a team struggling to be above average.

Myziane Maolida scored 11 goals in less than four months at Hibs.Myziane Maolida scored 11 goals in less than four months at Hibs.
Myziane Maolida scored 11 goals in less than four months at Hibs.

Now, players capable of hitting that net at that sort of a clip aren’t generally to be found lying by the side of a pre-season training camp. Hibs only landed Maolida for a four-month stint because Hertha Berlin were desperate to offload their unwanted asset – and the player himself was eager to resurrect his career after spending six months in the Regionalliga North East with Hertha’s second team.

This is where Hibs arguably have to get a bit Moneyball about things. If you can’t get one player who will churn out those numbers, can you land two – a second striker and a winger – capable of combining to have a similar impact, scoring 25 goals between them?

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Paul Hanlon

Joe Newell is the obvious choice as club captain, now that Hanlon has been released, with the English midfielder having regularly deputised for the lifelong Hibs fan. Few captains are ever like-for-like replacements for their predecessors, so there is likely to be a shift in tone in the dressing room.

But Hibs do not have a left-sided central defender on their books. Not a senior player, anyway. Whatever failings Hanlon may have been showing as the legs and reactions began to slow, just a little, the 34-year-old is in demand by other Scottish Premiership clubs for a reason.

Hanlon bids farewell to Hibs at Easter Road after his final home game.Hanlon bids farewell to Hibs at Easter Road after his final home game.
Hanlon bids farewell to Hibs at Easter Road after his final home game. | SNS Group

What Hibs really need, of course, is a younger Hanlon. A left-footed centre-half who can pass the ball, drive forward from the back and do the basics of defending. Without costing the earth. Good luck with that.

Will Fish

Not quite as irreplaceable as Hanlon, in the grander scheme of things. But still a loss, assuming he’s not returned to Easter Road to see out the final year of his contract as a Manchester United player.

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Fish was the dominant defender in a back four that misfired terribly last season. But he’s still only 21, with plenty to learn about the game. And he has all – or most of, anyway – the physical gifts needed to play at a decent level.  

On the most basic level, Hibs need to replace the team-leading 45 interceptions Fish made last season. As Nick Montgomery discovered in January, when Owen Bevan’s failure to get fit scuppered a move for the Bournemouth prospect, good young central defenders are hard to find.

David Marshall

Marshall’s influence can’t be measured in cold, hard statistics. Save percentages and goals against don’t tell half the story when it comes to gauging the former Scotland goalkeeper’s role at Hibs.

With Jojo Wollacott yet to convince in a handful of starts towards the end of the season, can Hibs really afford to go with their back-up from the start of next season? Or do they prioritise landing an experienced goalie capable of adding some leadership to a problem area of the park?

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Elie Youan is the subject of a sizeable bid.Elie Youan is the subject of a sizeable bid.
Elie Youan is the subject of a sizeable bid. | SNS Group

Elie Youan

Not gone yet. And not exactly irreplaceable, by any stretch of the imagination. There’s a reason why Hibs are entertaining offers for the winger/forward just a year on from securing his services on a ‘permanent’ basis.

Youan produces flashes of brilliance. Moments to make the jaw drop. And those will be missed. But the Frenchman has been inconsistent to the point of flaky. Has Jair Tavares done enough to simply step into his place? That could be a problem.

If, however, Hibs could get anywhere near the £2.5 million quoted as the headline figure of a bid from France, they’d be daft not to accept. And reinvest at least some of that money in filling the glaring gaps caused by departures dating back to this time last year.