Hibs chief scout Dave Henderson will attend this evening’s Europa League first qualifying round clash between Drogheda United and Malmo at the Tallaght Stadium, Dublin, as the Hibees prepare for their first European campaign since 2010.
The Easter Road side will either face the daunting Swedes or the Irish outfit – managed by Mick Cooke, a firm friend of Pat Fenlon – over two legs on July 18 and 25. With Fenlon continuing to put his charges through their paces at a warm weather pre-season campaign in Sotogrande, Spain, it has been left to Henderson to spy any weaknesses in their potential opposition.
Malmo, European Cup runners-up of 1979, are overwhelming favourites to progress to face Hibs, and Henderson will follow the Allsvenskan outfit back home to take in their home league match against Gefle on Sunday afternoon.
Fenlon himself will be at the SwedeBank Arena next Thursday for the return leg as Hibs prepare for their first crack at continental football in three years.
“We will watch both Drogheda and Malmo play this European tie and their respective league games afterwards so we will have plenty of knowledge on both of our possible opponents,” said the Hibs boss.
Meanwhile, skipper James McPake has assured Hibs fans there are no worries regarding his fitness despite the big defender sitting out last night’s match in Gibraltar. McPake, who missed the last four matches of last season because of a back problem, returned to action in the club’s opening pre-season friendly as a second half substitute in the 1-1 draw with Dumbarton.
However, with Gibraltar’s Victoria Stadium boasting a plastic pitch, McPake wasn’t risked as a young Hibs side racked up a 3-1 win over the latest newcomers to UEFA. McPake, though, insisted he’s well on track to being ready for the start of the Easter Road outfit’s Europa League campaign when they face either Drogheda or Malmo a fortnight tonight.
He told Hibs TV: “So far the training camp has been good, although it has been tough in this heat. My fitness levels are coming on great. I got my first bit of football on Saturday for maybe eight weeks. That was a bonus.
“I’ve worked hard out here, I’ve done a little bit of extra work when I can. So I’m feeling good – tired and sore, but that’s all part of pre-season.”