BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Hibs boss Neil Lennon has confirmed the Easter Road outfit are in advanced talks with Grant Holt and Scott McDonald and insists the capture of the strike duo would represent a “statement of intent”.
The 44-year-old has made bolstering the Hibees’ attacking options his number one priority in the transfer market, while he is also keen to add experience and leadership to his ranks. He firmly believes both players fit the bill.
Holt, 35, emerged as a talisman for Norwich City during their rise from League One to the Premier League before enjoying stints with Wigan, Aston Villa, Huddersfield and Wolves.
However, injuries have curtailed his career of late and he spent the tail end of last season on loan with Rochdale, scoring two goals in 14 appearances as he sought to bounce back from cruciate knee ligament damage.
McDonald, 32, enjoyed a superb season with Motherwell last term, finding the net 14 times, and Lennon believes the former Celtic star would be a standout in the Championship next term.
“We are in talks with both of them,” confirmed Lennon. “They are two players I know well – Scott from my time at Celtic and Grant from my time at Nottingham Forest, and obviously he had great success with Paul Lambert.
“I saw Grant at Huddersfield when I was at Bolton and wanted to sign him but he had a bad injury. He has recovered well and looks in decent condition. It’s all to do with how the medical goes and if we’re happy with it and he is happy with it.
“I think experience is what we need. Grant knows his way around a football pitch and has played in all the leagues in England. He is very experienced and actually got better as his career went on.
“We are down the line in talks with Scotty, but not over the line just yet. I thought he had a fine season with Motherwell.
“It’s a big if, but if I can get over the line with either of them then it would be a big statement of intent from the club.”
Lennon was quick to emphasise the positive influence the arrival Holt and McDonald could have on in-demand striker Jason Cummings.
The Northern Irishman is pulling out all the stops to keep the Scotland under-21 internationalist, who scored 25 goals last season, and recently combined his punditry work with holding talks with the irascible youngster in Paris.
With his contract set to expire next summer, Hibs are keen for the player to sign a new deal and Lennon, while acknowledging interest in the player, has issued a hearty hands-off warning and. And that goes for John McGinn too.
“I have already spoken to Jason,” continued Lennon. “John [McGinn] has a prolonged break because of Scotland duty. But I will speak to him when he comes back and tell him he is going nowhere!
“Jason talks were very positive. I took him out to Paris where we had a good chat, with his agent. It went well, but there are no guarantees with these things.
“He knows how much we think of him and knows how much people in the background think of him as well. I am confident we will get over the line with that as well.
“If I wanted to sell them I could push it through, but I don’t want to do that.
“Jason got 25 goals and at 20 has a lot of potential. He’s far from the finished article but I think he’d be better with us and we can develop him for another year or two.
“He can enjoy it here and being in an environment that he knows and he can develop. You can go too young, but I can understand kids who have ambitions.
“It can be a different environment as well and it takes a bit of adjustment. There are Scots who have succeeded and I’m not saying that Jason wouldn’t but at this juncture he’d be better off with us.”