Trialist Imray dreaming of a shot at SPL with Hibs

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THE mystery goalkeeper currently on trial with Hibernian is Phil Imray of Team Wellington in New Zealand, The Scotsman can reveal.

The 24-year-old was named as a trialist in Monday night's goalless draw at Raith Rovers although Easter Road manager Mixu Paatelainen refused to name the player after the match.

However, it has emerged that Imray is on a two-week trial with the Edinburgh club just weeks after playing his trade with Western Suburbs in the Wellington-based Central League club competition.

And Imray has now pledged to take his chance in the Premier League and claim the goalkeeping berth from Yves Makalambay and Andy McNeil, although he credits former Celtic goalkeeper Jonathan Gould – now the New Zealand Olympic Team goalkeeping coach – for his opportunity with Hibs.

"It has been a dream of mine, for a while, to play professionally over here," said Imray. "Luckily, with Gouldy and Graham Little helping me out with their contacts over here, it has given me the opportunity. I've just got to make sure I try and raise my game while I'm here."

But, despite being with Hibs for a few days, Imray has already noticed the difference in standard from his home country.

"It's a massive step up, everyone is quality here," he said. "It's a lot more physical as well."

Imray was actually born in England but progressed through the Ole Soccer Academy and shot to prominence for Western Suburbs in the 2006 Chatham Cup final where he saved three penalties against Eastern Suburbs. He played in the senior NZFC last season for Team Wellington, captaining the team on a number of occasions. Imray is also considered to be one of the best goalkeepers in the league.

Imray is following in the footsteps of New Zealand striker Chris Killen, who played for Hibs before moving to Celtic last summer. But the goalkeeper insists he will not be put off from succeeding in Britain if he fails to win a deal with Paatelainen.

"I'm going to try and pick up a contract over here and if it doesn't work out, I'll try somewhere else," he said. "This is my first stop and it's a pretty big club. It's a pretty big step up so if it doesn't work out here maybe I'll try and drop down a level or two and pick something up."

However, Imray does admit the Hibs fans who travelled to Stark's Park on Tuesday did not see the best of him. "I didn't have my best game ever but it was okay," said Imray. "I'll see what they say to me this morning (Wednesday] at training."

Imray may not be eligible to play for New Zealand yet but he maintains a further goal will representing his adopted country in the future.

"The plan is to try and stay over here for a couple of years and make a go of it professionally, but if that (All Whites selection] ever came along I'll be keen," he said.

Paatelainen offered some words of encouragement for Imray after his performance against Raith.

"The keeper made some good saves, came off his line well and I felt his distribution was okay," said the Easter Road manager.

Paatelainen also reassured fans he is closing in on new signings. The Easter Road club have brought in just one fresh face this summer, right-back David van Zanten from St Mirren, as the SPL kick-off grows ever closer on 9 August.

After the Intertoto Cup exit to Swedish side IF Elfsborg last weekend and a goalless draw in a friendly at Raith, Hibs have yet to score or win in pre-season and some fans are growing uneasy.

But Paatelainen assessed three trialists at Stark's Park and insists he is in negotiations with new recruits. Joe Keenan, the former Chelsea midfielder, has impressed, and an unnamed French defender also played in Kirkcaldy.

Paatelainen said: "We are working very hard on the signing front. We are in negotiations and hopefully we can make some announcements soon."

Paatelainen has confirmed Makalambay will miss the start of the season after he was named in Belgium's Olympic squad.

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