Hibs ready to be ‘tested’ on John McGinn says Leeann Dempster

Hibs insist they are not looking to sell John McGinn. Picture: SNS.
Hibs insist they are not looking to sell John McGinn. Picture: SNS.
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Hibernian chief executive Leeann Dempster is fully braced for interest in prize asset John McGinn this month, but she insists the Easter Road club are not looking to sell their 
Scotland midfielder.

A swathe of clubs have been credited with an interest in the 23-year-old, who has excelled in the Premiership this term and taken his tally of international caps to five, with West Ham and Celtic among those reportedly monitoring his progress.

English Championship side Nottingham Forest were rebuffed last summer, but it remains to be seen whether the dismissal of manager Mark Warburton this week has dampened their desire to take McGinn to the City Ground.

After the transfer window opened yesterday, Dempster admitted Hibs – who yesterday completed the loan signing of goalkeeper Scott Bain from Dundee – could be “tested” in their desire to keep McGinn beyond January. “There will, of course, be a lot of speculation around John regarding other clubs being interested in him,” said Dempster. “There was an offer in the August transfer window and John has gone from strength to strength in the subsequent period. It’s inevitable that, when you have good people either working for you, or playing at a club, that there is going to be interest.

“It is always about weighing up our league position and what is best for us in the short and medium term. We don’t know what the next month will bring. We don’t have a crystal ball. We might get tested. If we are tested, then we will carefully consider it.

“The important thing is we are in a good place. I think the player is in a good place and the management team are in a good place. We will see what comes towards us in January, but we are not actively looking to sell our players.”

Hibs’ resolve to hold on to McGinn was tested last summer when Forest made three bids for the combative midfielder. None of those offers reached seven figures and the capital club “didn’t blink” in the face of the interest.

McGinn now has only 18 months left on his contract and is yet to enter serious talks regarding an extension, somewhat weakening Hibs’ bargaining position. Nevertheless, Dempster is adamant they are not seeking to cash in on the Scotland star.

Forest were expected to renew their interest in the player, but Warburton – the driving force behind the chase following his tenure with Rangers in Scotland – was dismissed on Sunday following defeat by Sunderland.

“It was widely reported that a Championship club bid for John last August. And, from our perspective, it didn’t make us blink,” said Dempster, who did not explicitly name Forest as the club which has bid for McGinn. “John is very important to us and, ultimately, we have not received an offer that would give us any indication we’d even think about it.”

Dempster has already shown a willingness to back Lennon in the January transfer window by yesterday completing the signing of Dundee goalkeeper Bain on loan until the end of the season with a view to a permanent deal. The 26-year-old is out of contract at Dens Park in the summer and had indicated he was keen to move on before a fall-out with manager Neil McCann led to him beingsidelined during the last two months. The Scotland squad player will provide competition for Ofir Marciano after Ross Laidlaw underwent shoulder surgery.

Bain told his new club’s official website: “I am delighted to be joining up with Neil Lennon’s squad. From the outside looking in the side have had a fantastic first half of the season, and I hope to help them build on that in 2018.

“It’s a strong group of players and I am excited about meeting everyone in Portugal for the training camp. Hopefully I can hit the ground running and force my way into the manager’s thoughts.”

Edinburgh-born Bain came through the youth ranks at Aberdeen before Paul Hartley took him to Alloa and then Dens Park.

Lennon remains keen to add quality to Hibs’ attacking ranks in the coming month, while Lithuanian striker Deivydas Matulevicius will be allowed to leave Easter Road if he can find another club in order to free up a wage.

“If a player becomes available and Neil feels he needs to strengthen that position, then we will go again,” added Dempster. “That has been the case in the past, with Anthony [Stokes] coming in towards the end of the transfer period when we felt it was the right thing.

“But Neil is very selective and decisive on the type of player he wants and it’s not just going to be a numbers job.”