Hibs transfers: Reprieve for exiting players, defender on radar, Ryan Porteous situation - what to expect at Easter Road this January

If there was a sense of trepidation when first-time manager Shaun Maloney was appointed Hibs’ new boss, that has been replaced by cautious (okay, in some cases flagrant) optimism thanks to a welcome return of six points from six in the former Belgium international team coach’s opening two games, and some fledgling adaptations in playing style.

Interest is building in Hibs defender Ryan Porteous.
Interest is building in Hibs defender Ryan Porteous.

Players who had been sidelined and forgotten have been given a fresh start, while loanee youngsters are being recalled to bolster the ranks and provide fresh competition for places.

To that end, newcomers former Orlando City winger Chris Mueller and Raith Rovers midfielder Dylan Tait are also in the door and everyone at HTC has a new gaffer to impress.

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The promise of a clean slate for all means that not only will the Leith side be recruiting, addressing the lack of defensive cover laid bare all too often this term after a disappointing summer transfer window.

New Hibs boss Shaun Maloney is assessing his squad - but is expected to strengthen.

For most of this season Ryan Porteous and Paul Hanlon have been straightforward picks, with only Darren McGregor offering any real competition. And, with discipline proving an issue, leading to suspensions, on top of injuries, and loanee Nathan Wood unable to force his way into the team, there has been very little room for unenforced swaps.

And, there remains interest in Porteous from clubs south of the border and abroad, with both player and club open to an offer that meets their valuation, rendering reinforcements in that area even more urgent.

The long-term injuries to striker Christian Doidge, and Kyle Magennis and Melker Hallberg, midfielders capable of playing in more advanced roles, also served as a reminder of the need to add greater attacking impetus.

Maloney has said that he does not anticipate a major overhaul in this window as he takes time to suss out what he already has at his disposal but the prospect of no business is unthinkable given how damaging the failure to address key areas in August has proved, not just to the team’s prospects as they struggled to fill injury and suspension voids, in Europe and in domestic action, but also to individual careers, as sporting director Graeme Mathie and then manager Jack Ross and his assistant John Potter were left to carry the can.

Players such as Alex Gogic will be given a chance to impress.

Back into the top six, there is fresh momentum and Maloney has almost a month to work with the squad and staff before they return to competitive action.

But arriving just as the transfer window is opening has given him little time to size everything up, especially as Hibs will want business conducted as early as possible, given the shambolic conclusion to the last transfer window.

It has created some uncertainty, with players who were to be told they could move on whenever they liked, with no new deal in the offing when the current contracts expired in the summer, suddenly back in the mix under Maloney.

Men like Alex Gogic, who played a huge part in providing a bit of midfield steel and helping to solidify the team defensively when it was needed at the beginning of last season, as well as the likes of Drey Wright and even Scott Allan, who were part of an ill-fated late switch in the summer.

All three have come back into contention in the early days of the Maloney era and it remains to be seen whether the players feel they have been given enough encouragement to stay and fight or whether more training sessions and friendlies convince the club that they have indeed come to the end of the road at Hibs.

What is clear is that Maloney and Hibs still value talismanic forward Martin Boyle at more than the £500,000 by Saudi Arabian opportunists over Christmas. The pacey Australian is the clubs’ top striker so far this term, scoring 14 – more than one third of all the team’s goals on domestic and European duty.

But, while personnel will play a key role in deciding how the second half of Hibs’ season goes, so too will what happens in the minds of players, who struggled with mental, tactical and physical discipline in the latter part of Ross’ reign.

For some, maybe rejuvenating effects of the winter break and switch up in training can trigger a return to top form, for others, a tweak in tactics may bring out their best.

There is a fresh voice, a new message and a clean slate. By the end of the window, it will be clear how many have bought into that and how many fit into it.