Arrival of Shefki Kuqi gives Hibs the muscle they lacked
PAT FENLON, the Hibernian manager, is confident that he has assembled a squad which he can trust not to repeat the meek failings of last term.
Shefki Kuqi became the club’s eighth signing of a “summer of change”, as Hibs’ own tagline puts it, last week, adding experience and determination to a dressing room which has sorely lacked such qualities.
The Finnish striker, 35, joins a cast of vocal, worldly characters including the likes of Ben Williams, Alan Maybury and captain James McPake. Following a 2011-12 which saw the Leith outfit fighting relegation and concluded with a 5-1 Scottish Cup final capitulation at Hearts, Fenlon believes his new ensemble is made of sterner stuff.
“It’s important that as well as being decent players, they are the right sort,” said Fenlon. “That will only help the other players, too. That hasn’t been right at the club for too long. With people like James McPake, Ben [Williams], Tim [Clancy] and Alan Maybury coming in, we have good players and great professionals.
“It gives us a core group that I can trust – and their teammates can trust. With Shefki, we know he is the right type of character for us from doing the background check. We check out all the players we look to sign, and he has been exactly how people described him to me.
“He has been fantastic since he has come in. He’s been helpful in talking to the younger players and is exactly what we wanted. It’s a similar scenario to other players we have brought in. We had to make sure they had the attitude we are looking for at this club – because we didn’t have that last season.”
Despite lauding the virtues of his new, powerful front-man, Fenlon has warned the Finn that he faces a challenge to earn his place in a Hibs side which has notably improved in recent weeks following their opening day 3-0 defeat at Dundee United. And after a laudable 2-1 win at St Mirren at the weekend, which came hot on the heels of the Hibees’ sterling 1-1 draw against Hearts, Fenlon says Kuqi is not an automatic starter for tomorrow’s meeting with St Johnstone.
“I was excited last week when I saw the partnership between Doyler [Eoin Doyle] and Leigh Griffiths if I’m honest,” he smiled.
“Shefki has come in and it is certainly not set in stone that he will play, but he has come in because we felt we needed something different. From a playing point of view we know exactly what he is capable of, from a fitness point of view, training-wise, he needs a little bit more. I think Shefki knows that he won’t necessarily walk straight into the starting team, but at the same time I’m sure he has not come up here to sit on the bench.
“So I’m sure we will get a reaction, and we get that same reaction from Doyler, who knows there is competition for his place. That’s healthy. We are now in a position where we have different options we can deploy up front and that is vital.”
Fenlon remains hopeful of making further additions to his squad ahead of the closure of the transfer window at the end of the month.
The manager is particularly conscious of a paucity of midfield options without the injured Lewis Stevenson. He added: “I would still like a little bit more, I feel we are a little bit short in terms of our whole squad. Last week you can see, with Lewis out, that we did not have many options in midfield. There are one or two areas where we would like to strengthen and we are trying to do that at the moment.
“The players have been first-class, but if we can give them some more help in terms of depth then we will do that.”
St Johnstone, meanwhile, have signed Aberdeen winger Peter Pawlett on loan until the beginning of January. The 21-year-old Hull-born player went on as a substitute during Aberdeen’s 2-0 extra-time win over Morton in the Scottish Communities League Cup on Wednesday, but manager Craig Brown is keen for the wide player to gain more first-team experience. The Scotland Under-21 international made his Aberdeen debut in May 2009 and has made 63 first-team appearances despite injury problems last season.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
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Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
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