Craig sees chances of Hibs job fading fast

HIBERNIAN interim manager Tommy Craig expects the vacant managerial situation at Easter Road to be resolved by the end of next week, although his own prospects of succeeding John Collins appear to have been dashed.

Craig, whose side lost 2-1 to Kilmarnock on Boxing Day, admitted yesterday he has not been given a green light to pursue signing targets, with the transfer window due to open at midnight on Monday. Craig has taken charge of first-team affairs since Collins' surprise walk-out last week, and led the team to an encouraging 1-1 draw against Celtic at Parkhead on Saturday. However, what he described as a "flat" performance at Rugby Park has not helped his case, although it appears Craig may not feature in the Hibs board's thoughts in any case as they seek to have a manager in place by, at the very latest, Inverness Caledonian Thistle's Scottish Cup visit on 12 January.

Craig, right, has a hunch the post will be filled before Hibs travel to face St Mirren a week prior to that fixture. His own brief from chairman Rod Petrie is simply to take charge of the team during an undefined "festive period". Whether this ends after next Wednesday's match against Motherwell Craig is not sure, and this air of uncertainty is also reflected in the pause in transfer activity necessitated by the departure of Collins.

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Craig has been given no encouragement to act on the work he and the former manager put in as they prepared for the start of the transfer window. The targets identified have now effectively been shelved. It leaves Hibs with some catching up to do should Craig be given the manager's job or if, as appears more likely, a new man is appointed from outside the club. Indeed, Craig's assertion that he would like to think David Murphy "will be here as long as I am still here" won't offer supporters much hope, with the coveted left-back an injury doubt ahead of tomorrow's clash with Rangers at Easter Road.

"Up until this point I have not been given the leeway to speak to players about coming in," admitted Craig. "My remit is to look after the team until the festive period is over. I am assuming the festive period will finish around the second or sixth of January. It's an assumption on my part that the club would hope to have resolved the managerial situation by then."

Craig addressed the matter of signing targets, with Hibs now more likely to lose a player before they are in a position to bring in reinforcements. Murphy may even have already played his last game for Hibs if he fails to recover ahead of Wednesday's clash with Motherwell. Celtic and Rangers are expected to lead the chase for his signature.

"We know that clubs are going to be looking at him," said Craig. "He is a first-class full-back and the fact he is left-footed makes him more special. You saw how good a player he was against Celtic and that is the norm. I would like to think as long as I am still here, he will be here. If Murphy does leave Easter Road in the not-too-distant future I am pretty sure it will have to be a helluva offer."

With the side having won only once in their last ten matches, Craig conceded the team are "in the middle of a slump" and need a fillip from somewhere.

"If you look at (the transfer activity in] January, it is not as busy as you expect," observed Craig. "What it does do is give you an opportunity to reinforce a little bit and Hibs will hopefully be involved in that." But, he conceded, there remains the possibility Hibs have already been left behind in the race to sign players.

"There is a danger other clubs could jump the queue of players that are available if we don't have a manager to sell the club to them," said Craig. "(But] I cannot concern myself with it. If that's the way it is going to be, it's going to be."

Hibs striker Abdessalam Benjelloun remains a doubt for the Rangers game with a strained hamstring, while full-back Kevin McCann has also been added to the injury list with a strain.