James McPAKE is set to remain captain of Hibs despite being sent off on his debut for the Easter Road outfit, boss Pat Fenlon has revealed.
Fenlon sprang a surprise by handing the central defender the armband for his first match against Rangers only days after he had signed on loan from Coventry City until the end of the season.
But the former Livingston player saw red 19 minutes from time, picking up a second yellow card after clashing with Ibrox midfielder Maurice Edu having earlier been cautioned for a foul on Sone Aluko.
Fenlon, though, defended his player, insisting McPake had been harshly dealt with by referee Charlie Richmond, claiming Edu had simply run into him as he stood his ground.
Hibs are unable to appeal the decision, so McPake will serve a one-match ban, The suspension, however, applies only to SPL matches meaning McPake is free to lead Hibs out for tomorrow’s William Hill Scottish Cup clash with Kilmarnock. The captain’s armband has been passed around this season, Ian Murray the club skipper with Paul Hanlon taking over in his absence while more recently Garry O’Connor and Ivan Sproule have been first up the tunnel.
Confirming McPake will “probably” remain captain in the longer term, Fenlon said: “He is a good leader and organiser, a talker. It’s difficult for forwards like Gary and Ivan to see the full pitch and I think it is important your captain is central and can see what is going on around.”
Last weekend’s match saw all four of Fenlon’s January arrivals up to that point starting the game, McPake joined by Tom Soares and earlier signings Eoin Doyle and George Francomb, but since then the Hibs boss has added four more, Jorge Claros, Pa Kujabi, Matt Doherty and Roy O’Donovan.
Honduran internationalist Claros has been ruled out of tomorrow’s match as he awaits a work permit but Fenlon admitted he had decisions to make as to how many of his latest signings will be involved.
He said: “We have changed the team around a little bit at the moment and we will put in the ones we feel are ready to play and can contribute to the team.
“We wanted to get players in and now we have options on the field and to come from the bench which I thought we were a little bit short of.
“We have real options all round the pitch, an extra striker who gives us a different dimension. But bedding them all in to the team will obviously take a bit of time. There won’t be all of them tomorrow, but there will be a few involved.”
Although Fenlon’s over-riding priority is to ensure SPL survival for Hibs, the Irishman said the cup remained just as much in his sights, adding: “Progressing in the cup would give everyone a lift and something to look forward to.”