Collins clears way for mass exodus of stars at Hibs

HIBS could begin the new season without 15 of the players who kicked off the current campaign as boss John Collins begins his summer clear-out.

Leading the way will be midfield star Michael Stewart, who has already been told he won't be offered a new contract as have a host of other Easter Road players.

Goalkeeper Simon Brown is set to be another big-name casualty, having been unable to command a regular starting place in the final season of his three-year contract but Collins revealed he's still hopeful Kiwi striker Chris Killen will sign a new deal.

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Top scorer Killen, currently recovering from a snapped Achilles tendon which has kept him out of action for the past three months, has yet to put pen to paper but Collins said: "It's been dragging on a bit but we are still hoping he will sign. The ball is in his court, it's his prerogative."

However, the Hibs boss insisted he was not unduly concerned by the delay in securing Killen, saying: "I have other players in mind if he doesn't sign, other irons in the fire."

Collins revealed he's written to all first-team players whose contracts are about to expire, telling them of the club's plans in relation to each of them individually but confirmed the majority of them will be leaving.

He said: "It's never a nice time of year in football, no-one likes to be the bearer of bad news but what we have tried to do is to tell the players early, which will hopefully be beneficial to them in that they can try to find a new club before the stampede begins."

Collins insisted Stewart wasn't being singled out in any way following the "player revolt" of last week, adamant the decision had been taken "for football reasons." But, while major changes appear imminent, Collins declared that the overall structure of his squad wouldn't change as he seeks to bring in new faces.

He said: "There's nothing we are going to announce but we have a few possibilities just like any other club.

"Players will be moving out of other clubs and no doubt they'll be circulating their lists of who will be available - but the one thing no-one does is circulate a list of their targets.

"The main structure of the team will be the same, players come to the end of their contracts and move on and what we are doing is working to try to make the squad better."

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Collins already has York City striker Clayton Donaldson tied up on a pre-contract deal for next season and his hopeful Motherwell midfielder Brian Kerr will agree to join Hibs this summer.

But it is clear a number of other new faces will be arriving over the coming months as Collins is set to release a large number of players who won't be part of his first-team plans.

Jay Shields, Kevin McDonald and Sam Morrow, on loan to Dundee, Airdrie United and Partick Thistle respectively will be among those allowed to go while defender Jonathon Baillie has lost his battle against a back injury and goalkeeper Ally Brown has found himself unable to force his way into the reckoning.

Jamie McCluskey has already left the club has have Amadou Konte, Oumar Konde, Paul Dalglish and Kevin Thomson and the fact goalkeeper Zibi Malkowski and midfielder Stephen Glass have also been out on loan since January would indicate they'd be allowed to leave despite having another year on their contracts.