Hibs boss Neil Lennon has admitted the Easter Road club have knocked back a bid from a Turkish club for leading scorer Simon Murray – because they don’t want to lose the striker.
The former Dundee United hitman has claimed 14 goals so far in a green-and-white shirt and, although he’s found himself slipping down the pecking order as teenager Oli Shaw has burst onto the scene, Lennon insisted the 25-year-old still has an important part to play this season.
Confirming the offer –believed to be from League One outfit Elazigspor – Lennon said: “We had an offer from Turkey for Simon Murray but we have not accepted that. As it stands, we’ll be keeping Simon unless another bid comes in that makes us think.
“I think it’s testament to how well he has done and I’ve told him that he should take it as a real compliment. It should give him a real shot in the arm. I think he is ahead of expectations after the first half of the season, so it’s excellent for him. We don’t want him to go.”
Rather than lose a striker, Lennon has added another in Australian internationalist Jamie Maclaren, beating Capital rivals Hearts to secure him on loan from German club Darmstadt until the end of the season.
Asked what he believed Maclaren, who has joined his new team-mates at their training camp in the Algarve along with goalkeeper Scott Bain, will bring to his side for the second half of the season, he said: “Hopefully goals. His movement is very good, he’s very fit. His workrate off the ball is excellent.
“If you look at his record in Australia, it’s one goal in every two games and that’s a decent standard of football.
“The other side of it is he is hungry. He feels he has a point to prove – not to me or anyone else, but himself. And obviously he has the target of making the Australian World Cup squad, so we have got a very motivated player in the building.
“He will take a bit of time to integrate with the rest of them and it might take a bit of time to get used to the game. But his ancestry is Scottish, he has family in Edinburgh, so there is a comfort there for him straight away. We have been very impressed with what we have seen so far. But the main aspect is he’ll hopefully add to the goal tally.
“He’s similar to Simon, maybe not as physically strong. However, he’s quick and he sniffs out opportunities. I think he is smart, his football intelligence is good, and his movement off the ball is excellent, really good.
“When we watched footage of him we saw he is a good finisher as well once he is in there as well. So he has a sort of tunnel vision of how to play the game, his remit is to try and score goals. And hopefully not only will he be able to bring that, he’ll bring his game on as well while he’s here in Scotland.”
Meanwhile, Lennon insisted there had been no approaches for Scotland midfielder John McGinn so far this transfer window, although he won’t rule out any coming in.
He said: “I don’t know how it will pan out, honestly. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t interest in John, but we want to keep him. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t something in the air for him as the weeks go on.
“We are in a strong position, we have added to the squad – we think we’ve improved it – and we are in a healthy position off the field. It’s stress-free at the minute, but that can always change.”
There has, however, been an enquiry from an unnamed club for Liam Fontaine. The 32-year-old defender is out of contract at the end of the season, but it is understood Hibs have not acted on the interest.
Lennon is well placed to make further moves while in Portugal, with the club’s head of player identification and recruitment Graeme Mathie part of the travelling party.
He said: “Graeme is out here and always on the phone. We have had a couple of enquiries for one or two players, but nothing concrete. We are prepared for any eventuality and you need to be in January – it can really wind you up a bit.
“We have the structure in place to handle whatever.”