Garry O'Connor graft leaves Caldo impressed

COLIN CALDERWOOD has tipped Garry O'Connor to be Hibs' main man this season having returned to Easter Road on a mission.

The bustling striker has claimed a goal in each of Hibs first two pre-season friendlies - a penalty as Berwick Rangers were sunk 3-0 followed by a glancing header as Calderwood's side went down 2-1 to First Division newcomers Livingston.

But it is the work the 28-year-old has been putting in on the training ground away from the public gaze which has impressed Calderwood.

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The Hibs boss said: "I think Garry is going to be the focal point, the fulcrum on and off the pitch. I am really delighted with his attitude to training."

Having played the first 45 minutes at Shielfield Park, O'Connor managed another 63 at the Braidwood Motors Stadium on Tuesday night as Calderwood again took the opportunity to give most of his squad a taste of the action.

It was a sign, Calderwood insisted, of the former Lokomotiv Moscow, Birmingham City and Barnsley hitman's match fitness rapidly improving. He said: "I am sure Garry could have continued and got closer to the 90 minutes, but with the work he has done in training you can see a level of quality from his centre-forward play.

"But there has to be more and more of it, he has to be fitter, stronger and that comes from training every day and from having an appetite to play."

O'Connor notched 59 goals first time around in a green and white jersey and, according to Calderwood, is desperate to make his second spell just as noteworthy.

Insisting O'Connor is a more rounded, improved player to that which left Easter Road for Russia in 2006, Calderwood said: "He is determined to be the Hibs hero again, which he always will be. He wants to leave a lasting impression.

"However, this isn't an end point, just a restart for him."

Meanwhile, Calderwood has signalled it is "business as usual" despite the intense speculation surrounding his own future by taking former Celtic striker Cillian Sheridan on trial having earlier declared his attention to beef up his strikeforce which, at the moment, consists only of O'Connor and Akpo Sodje.

After being loaned out by Celtic to St Johnstone, Motherwell and Plymouth, 22-year-old Sheridan signed a three-year deal with Bulgarian outfit CSKA Sofia in August 2010.

The 6ft 5in Republic of Ireland hitman scored four goals in 16 appearances for Sofia, but is now seeking a return to this country.