Paul Heckingbottom laments Hibs missing out on duo – but understands that money talks
Hibs boss Paul Heckingbottom has admitted he was disappointed to see striker Marc McNulty join Sunderland, revealing: “There are League Two clubs in England who could blow us out of the way.”
Heckingbottom kept his fingers crossed all summer that McNulty and Stephane Omeonga might return to Easter Road following impressive loan spells last season before rejoining their parent clubs, Reading and Serie A outfit Genoa, respectively, only to lose out on both.
McNulty, whose eight goals in a green and white jersey helped earn him his first Scotland caps, penned a season-loan with the Black Cats, while the Belgian midfielder signed for Cercle Brugge in his homeland in a similar arrangement.
“I am disappointed,” said the Hibs head coach, “but I sort of knew. I was never going to say we had no chance because we wanted him. He was certainly open to coming back, but it was always going to be tough.
“It was the same with Stephy, we knew what was happening. There was constant dialogue with the agents and the players. We have always been honest with them and they have been honest with us, but there was nothing we could do about it.
“There is one thing that is maybe not appreciated but, financially, there are some League Two clubs in England who could blow us out of the way. Sometimes it is crazy.
“But if players want to go for money reasons to other places, that’s fair play to them. I can understand this one as well, with Sparky going to Sunderland, because of the size of the club. I would expect them to be up there challenging in League One and then looking longer term in the Championship. They are a big club.”
However, while revealing it was nothing new to him having suffered in the same way while manager at Barnsley, Heckingbottom insisted that money didn’t always talk.
He said: “It is not always a restriction because we have signed some really, really good players who got better financial offers but wanted to come here because of the club, how we want to work and the style of football we want to play, the league, some of the opposition.
“So it’s not always a negative, not by any means. All we can do is be as good as we can be and get the best possible players and if we get them then we know they have come here for the right reasons.”
Meanwhile, Hibs will hope to clinch their place in the last 16 of the Betfred Cup when they face Elgin City in their first ever visit to Borough Briggs tonight, heading north as the leaders of qualifying Group C, Heckingbottom having used those matches as part of his side’s pre-season preparations.
After two matches at home, Heckingbottom conceded his players will again have to adapt to a smaller ground, but insisted: “It’s part of it. I’m trying to think of some of the horrific places I’ve been in pre-season and the ones up here look like Wembley in comparison.
“I won’t name them because I probably know someone there. But I’ve had some horrific pre-season games. I’ve said that I hated them as a player, hated them managing - this is much better for me, competitive games.
“Our target was to get through to the next round. That was it and we’ve done all we can so far. Part of that was getting every player ready in terms of fitness, tactics, so if we get through it then it couldn’t have gone any better.”