Kill tug of war

HIBS new boy Chris Killen was today at the centre of a club versus country tug-of-war, only 48 hours after the New Zealand striker signed on at Easter Road.

The 24-year-old hitman is wanted by All Whites coach Ricki Herbert for two friendly matches against Malaysia in Auckland in the middle of next month.

Herbert has already e-mailed Hibs asking for Killen, who has already scored an impressive 14 goals in 22 appearances for his country, to be released for the games on February 19 and 23.

But, in doing so, Herbert has acknowledged that Killen's presence is unlikely - especially with Tony Mowbray's side facing Rangers at Ibrox in the SPL on February 18 and, hopefully, having a Tennent's Scottish Cup fifth-round tie a week later.

Killen, who has admitted he hopes that his arrival at Easter Road will enhance his international prospects, would also be unlikely to want to travel halfway across the world for friendly games when he'll be striving to establish himself.

He acknowledges he faces stiff competition with Garry O'Connor and Derek Riordan having claimed 23 goals between them already this season.

The ex-Manchester City and Oldham star's international status featured in his negotiations with Hibs and Mowbray is sure New Zealand's demands will mostly be confined to the close season.

Killen, who made his debut for the Kiwis against Tahiti in the 2000 Oceania Nations Cup, doesn't envisage international duty being a problem and, while Herbert will be disappointed this time, he believes the Easter Road club have signed a player who will make an impact in Scotland.

The Kiwi coach, who is eyeing the 2009 Confederations Cup and the World Cup finals in South Africa the following year, said: "It's great to have another All White featuring in one of the top leagues in the world. Chris is a front-runner, a good receiver of the ball and strong. He's been a reasonably prolific scorer for New Zealand so it's a good signing.

"He's going to get a crack at the likes of Celtic and Rangers and they are good teams. It's a bit like one of our other players, Ivan Vicelich, who is playing for Roda JC in Holland where he comes up against the likes of PSV Eindhoven, Feyenoord and Ajax."

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