Hibs have signed defender James McPake and midfielder Tom Soares this week, both on loan, but Fenlon still plans to make several more signings as he bids to fight clear of the relegation zone. Two players who will not be joining the Edinburgh club, however, are Jim Goodwin, who agreed a new contract with St Mirren yesterday, and Arsenal striker Rhys Murphy, who has returned to London after playing as a trialist for Hibs on Monday.
“I watched Gavin play in Dundee’s Scottish Cup replay [against Kilmarnock] and he did quite well,” Fenlon said of Rae. “There are players we are still talking to, and he is one who fits the bill in relation to experience and his know-how and his knowledge of the league.”
Rae, who has been one of Dundee’s best players in recent weeks as they try to step up their promotion challenge, extended his current deal with the club earlier this month. However, the 34-year-old is understood to have a gentlemen’s agreement allowing him to leave Dens Park if he receives an offer from elsewhere.
Since becoming Hibs manager, Fenlon has signed striker Eoin Doyle from Sligo Rovers and full-back George Francomb on loan from Norwich. But his priorities have been central defence and midfield, and Rae would complement McPake and Soares.
Goodwin would also have been a suitable acquisition, but St Mirren were able to persuade their 30-year-old captain to stay on. “We spoke to St Mirren about Jim, but he has decided to stay where he is,” Fenlon conceded. “He’s their player, so there’s nothing we can do about that.”
Fenlon added that Murphy had been allowed to go back to Arsenal after picking up an injury. “Rhys has got a bit of a shoulder injury, so he has headed back down the road. We haven’t got time to be trying to get players fit in the situation we are in.”
The Hibs squad is clearly in need of a substantial overhaul, and, having signed a two-and-a-half-year contract when he succeeded Colin Calderwood two months ago, Fenlon is well aware that he has embarked on a long-term rebuilding programme. His short-term priority, however, has to be survival in the SPL this season, and to that end he is willing to make several more loan signings in addition to those he has already acquired.
“We’re still trying at the moment,” he said. “It took us a few weeks to get the boys in that we have done and we’re still working hard to get in more.”
Francomb is young and inexperienced, but McPake and Soares are hardened campaigners who can be expected to form the spine of the team, starting tomorrow, when Hibs visit Ibrox. “Experience is the big thing with the boys we have brought in,” the manager continued, referring to Soares and McPake.
“They are both very good players, who have lots of good experience and knowledge of the game.
“With the current group of players we have there are a lot of young boys in there. And that’s why we pinpointed that type of player: they’ll bring some character and experience into the club as well as being decent players.”
With Doyle being the only permanent signing he has made so far, Fenlon will almost be back to square one when his loan acquisitions leave in the summer, but he has accepted that at this stage of the season there is little alternative to getting players in for a few months. “I think at this stage it’s difficult to get players in outside of getting them in on loan.
“Everybody is in the same position and there’s not too many coming in on permanent deals. Right now it’s about getting us to the end of the season and staying in the league, and that’s what we are trying to do at the moment.
“Both of them [McPake and Soares] have trained and both look fairly fit. They’ve both played a fair bit over the last while. Tom’s played a few reserve games and James played in the Championship the week before last, so they should both be okay.”
With Leigh Griffiths and Garry O’Connor both suspended, Doyle will be the only recognised senior striker in the Hibs squad tomorrow. “We probably would have played Leigh and Doyle if they had been available, to be honest, but we only have Doyle at the moment,” Fenlon added. “Ross Caldwell will come into the squad.
“That’s all we have, so we’ll just have to plan around that. There’s not a lot we can do. We have just got to make sure we have enough on the park to go and win the game.”