Paul Hanlon admits Hibs face battle to retain top stars as big clubs circle

As a team, Hibs have their eyes on the prizes but Paul Hanlon knows that others will be watching individuals and looking to strip the club of their key assets.

By Moira Gordon
Monday, 10th May 2021, 6:00 am

The Scotland international has been around long enough to know how things work at a club like Hibs where success usually leads to squad upheaval. And while he would love to see the current group - who stand on the precipice of history - stick together to build on this season’s achievements, he says it is inevitable that bigger clubs will come knocking.

“It happens,” he says. “Especially at Hibs. Over the years, even back to when I was going to games as a fan, we were known as a club who produced good young players. And, eventually bigger clubs come in. That’s the way it is with a club like ours.

“But we did a lot of good work in January to fend off that interest in some of our players and the boys involved managed to stay focused on success for Hibs, which is great.”

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Hibs defender Paul Hanlon anticipates renewed interest in top scorer Kevin Nisbet this summer. Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group

Kevin Nisbet and Ryan Porteous were the main subjects of interest, with Birmingham City lodging several bids for the club’s top scorer and Millwall offering £1m to snap up the young defender.

QPR have now joined the hunt for the Scot who, along with Nisbet and Hanlon has not abandoned hope of making it into Steve Clarke’s 26-man Euros squad, as the country participates in a major finals for the first time since 1998.

And, Hanlon has warned that impressing on such a huge stage, and seeing out a club season that could reap Hibs’ first top-three finish in 16 years and a Scottish Cup triumph, will only enhance their prospects.

“‘I’ve never finished in that position as a first-team player, so it’s massive for us.

“But it’s where the club wants to be – and where the club should be.

“They know that if they’re successful here for a good Hibs team in the Scottish Premiership, maybe win the Scottish Cup, it will attract interest – and it already has.

“But, whatever happens in the summer happens. But there’s a squad full of boys in there desperate to be successful for Hibs right away. “

Martin Boyle is another who has suitors, including Celtic, who are also among the burgeoning group showing interest in the Scottish Football Writers Association Young Player of the Year, Josh Doig.

The teenager has impressed with an eye-catching breakthrough season and, playing alongside him, Hanlon can appreciate why.

“He’s just developing consistency now. His athletic ability is second to none – he can handle these games physically, no problem.

“It’s just about wee tweaks positionally, especially at certain times when we were under the cosh a bit against United; he can hold his position a bit better.

“That’s all learning that he’ll get from playing more games. But, in terms of attributes, physicality, appetite to learn, he’s got the lot.

“My job is to play alongside him, help him as much as possible, talk him through the games but when we let him off the leash and he goes forward, he’s such a threat with that pace, that strength and that delivery.”

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