Hibernian boss Pat Fenlon hopes to seal deal for Finnish striker Kuqi

HIBERNIAN manager Pat Fenlon remains hopeful of finalising moves to sign experienced Finland striker Shefki Kuqi.

The 35-year-old was a guest of the Easter Road club at Sunday’s Edinburgh derby against Hearts and was expected to pen a contract after watching the 1-1 draw.

Reports in the Finnish media suggested yesterday that a deal was close to completion as Fenlon bids to strengthen his attacking options ahead of tomorrow’s trip to face St Mirren. Kuqi, who scored 16 times for English League One side Oldham Athletic last season, was quoted as saying: “I would rather Scotland than the lower divisions in England. Hibernian really wanted me, so now I’m really psyched.”

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However, despite Fenlon admitting the former Sheffield Wednesday, Crystal Palace, Swansea and Newcastle player fits the profile of the experienced target man he is seeking, the manager confessed that patience was needed as negotiations continue. Asked about progress with Kuqi, he said: “We want to strengthen the squad. We feel we’re going in the right direction with it, but there are a couple of areas in there that are still a little bit light, that we want to make sure we can strengthen before the window closes. We definitely need a striker, it’s a position where we’re short, and that’s not being disrespectful to the boys – Eoin Doyle and Leigh Griffiths are good players.

“We’d like to get a bigger one, if we could, to complement both of them, and then experience would obviously help with Danny Handling and Ross Caldwell. We have got a very young squad and if you’re bringing in somebody with the experience and the calibre of the player we’re talking about [Kuqi] then that can benefit the team, but it can also benefit the younger players, particularly the forward ones that need to learn the game.”

Hibs restored some of their battered pride as Kuqi watched on in the derby, but were yesterday dealt a blow with the news midfielder Lewis Stevenson has been sidelined with an injury picked up against Hearts. X-rays revealed the 24-year-old had sustained a broken toe on his left foot before playing the diagonal pass that sparked Griffiths’ equaliser and a recovery period of up to six weeks has been mooted.

However, with treatment restricted by the nature of the injury, Fenlon is optimistic the Fifer will be able to deal with the pain caused by the problem and return to action a lot sooner. He added: “He’s going to be out for a few weeks and he’s a loss for us. Lewis has been great for us since I’ve been here. But we’re hopeful it won’t be as long as first feared. With that type of injury, it’s a small fracture but it’s more of a pain threshold thing. Knowing Lewis, he’s good that way, he’ll go through the wall for you.”

Meanwhile, Fenlon refused to be drawn into an extensive war of words with Hearts counterpart John McGlynn following the Gorgie manager’s argument that Hibs were guilty of dishing out ‘quite severe’ treatment to winger David Templeton and harshly targeting his team’s flair players in the derby

However, apparently referring to the robust aerial challenge on Griffiths that many thought Ian Black was lucky to escape a red card for in May’s Scottish Cup final between the teams, Fenlon did respond to the accusation by suggesting Sunday was perhaps a reversal of previous clashes between the teams.