Hibs boss Neil Lennon has revealed he hopes to be able to bring in “one or two” new faces early next week, with former Easter Road defender Steven Whittaker firmly in his sights.
While the Capital club’s efforts to strengthen the squad have been dealt a couple of blows – Northern Ireland striker Kyle Lafferty opting to join rivals Hearts and what appeared a promising move for Cambridge midfielder Luke Berry having been declared dead – Lennon insisted strenuous efforts were being made to add to the four signings already secured.
But he did admit Hibs had rejected an offer for Scotland midfielder John McGinn from Ipswich Town, describing the bid as “nowhere near our valuation and that’s the end of it” and rebuffed speculation linking Dylan McGeouch with Blackpool, saying: “That’s all it is, I know nothing about it.”
Lennon’s thoughts are more on adding to his squad, disclosing he’s hoping to bring in “at least three or four” to add to summer signings Danny Swanson, Efe Ambrose, Simon Murray and Ofir Marciano.
Talks with 33-year-old Whittaker, a free agent after being released by Norwich, have been ongoing and Lennon, who is also casting an eye over former Arsenal and Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant, is cautiously optimistic progress can be made on that front.
Asked if he’d been frustrated at nothing having transpired in recent days, he said: “No, it’s not an exact science. Deals? You win some, you lose some. We have options in lot of positions and we are working away quietly in the background to achieve that.
“I am very pleased with the pool of players I have, but obviously it is a bit thin. The club are doing all they can to add to it. We need to strengthen in the forward area having lost Jason Cummings. We’ve looked at a couple of players but we have not really made a pitch for one just yet.
“We are looking at options and we are hoping to bring in one or two, hopefully by early next week.”
As he chases new faces, Lennon will also give home-grown talent it’s chance with teenagers Oli Shaw, Fraser Murray and Ryan Porteous along with 20-year-old Callum Crane all featuring in the club’s first pre-season match, a 4-0 win over Dunfermline.
Describing the performances of the youngsters at East End park as “encouraging”, he said: “They have been on the outskirts of the first team for a year. They are good, young players who have been training with the first team for along time and obviously we want them in the squad this season. They didn’t look out of place at Dunfermline.”
Meanwhile, Lennon has promised that Lewis Stevenson’s testimonial match against Sunderland tomorrow (kick-off 2pm) won’t be treated as a friendly, describing the arrival of the Black Cats under new manager Simon Grayson as “a huge step up in class”.
He said: “It’s against a team who were in the Premier League last season. The physicality, the athleticism and the quality of the player will be a higher level to what we played at Dunfermline, It’s an excellent test for us.
“I know Simon very well. He’s an exceptional manager with an exceptional record of getting promotions. He’s managed Huddersfield, Leeds, Preston, Blackpool and has done brilliantly wherever he has been.
“His players will be keen to make an early impression, but as regards us, it’s another step to what we want to achieve going into the new season.”