Now Lennon is confident enough of capturing the signature of Whittaker – who was at the club’s East Mains training centre yesterday – to reveal that he believes an announcement on his return will be made early next week.
Lennon, who has also been credited with an interest in bringing striker Anthony Stokes back for a third spell at Hibs, said: “It’s progress, progress, progress. I was hoping we’d get something done early this week, but sometimes these things chop and change as we saw with the Luke Berry deal.”
However, regarding Whittaker, who played 174 games for Hibs before making a £2 million move to Rangers ten years ago, Lennon said: “It is very close now and hopefully we will be able to announce something early next week and there are other options we are pursuing.
“I think it would be a real coup for this club. We’ll be getting three players in one with Steven. He can play in both full back positions, he is excellent in midfield and has had a stellar career – and I believe there is plenty more to come. He looks in great condition and we hope to get it over the line.”
Lennon revealed he has come to a decision over former Arsenal and Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant – who played in all three of Hibs pre-season matches as a trialist – but insisted he’d be speaking to the 34-year-old before making that public.
He has also been casting an eye over Welsh internationalist Simon Church, but admitted it was too early to make a decision on the 28-year-old. “It’s too early in the sense he has only been here for a couple of days and I imagine he’ll stay with us next week unless anything else crops up for him,” Lennon said. “At the minute he is getting his fitness levels up, training well – but it’s no guarantee.”
Meanwhile, Lennon revealed Nigerian defender Efe Ambrose has finally reported back for pre-season training after going AWOL. Although unhappy at the 28-year-old’s prolonged absence, the Hibs boss said he’s satisfied with the explanation he’s been given.
“The eagle has landed,” joked Lennon. “The hatchet has been buried – in his head.
“No, it’s been dealt with. He was off until Monday and had a personal issue. There was a slight communication problem, but he is here now, he is fine and he is in good health. That’s the end to it.”