IAN MURRAY fears Hibs will face stiff competition for Steven Whittaker but reckons his old team-mate would return with a determined ‘hunger’ for success if Neil Lennon can pull off the move.
Whittaker has been told he can leave Norwich City for free this summer and the Scotland internationalist is said to be high on Lennon’s summer wish list.
The 32-year-old began his career at Easter Road before being sold to Rangers for £2 million in the summer following the club’s CIS Cup success of 2007.
However, after five years with Norwich, Whittaker is reportedly open to the idea of returning to Scottish football.
Lennon is eager to strengthen his Championship-winning squad and is hopeful of fending off likely interest from rivals, including Hearts.
And Murray, who played alongside Whittaker as he emerged from the Hibs youth ranks with the likes of Scott Brown, Kevin Thomson and Derek Riordan, believes it would be something of a signing coup should his versatile former colleague be enticed back to the club.
Murray said: “Steven’s a very good player and can play different positions as well. He’s a good guy to have around the team as well.
“It will depend on what he wants to do with his career and his life at the moment, and what’s best for his family.
“Leaving Norwich, at the top end of the Championship, he is going to have plenty of suitors.
“He’s a good player, who can play right-back, left-back and probably right midfield as well, so a good player for whoever gets him.
“I wouldn’t say he was underrated but if you were his team-mate you certainly knew what you were going to get from him.
“He’s one of those players you want to play with because you know he’ll give you everything.
“Hibs and Rangers are the two obvious teams who would maybe be in for him, having played for both of those clubs before, and it will be interesting to see what happens.”
Murray himself returned to Hibs after treading the same path as Whittaker from Easter Road to Rangers and Norwich City, and has backed the player to flourish if he does go back to his first club.
Murray, now assistant to Kevin Nicol at Norwegian side Asker, added: “If you’re like myself and Steven, having left for Rangers, some people are sceptical about you coming back and you have to try to win them over again.
“That is sometimes a good motivation to have, because you want to go out with your hunger still there and you want to do well.
“Having a manager like Neil Lennon and an assistant like Garry Parker, they won’t stand for anything less than hungry players.
“We’ve seen that this season when Neil has always been on the players’ cases. That’s probably what Hibs needed a little bit.
“And if they sign Steven, or whoever else, they will have to maintain the standards set by the manager.
“You’ll have one or two who will go back to a club and it won’t quite work but you have to go in there with the right focus.
“I would have no qualms about Steven slotting back in there and giving everything.”