BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
NEIL LENNON believes Hibs have found a natural successor to Grant Holt as hulking Lithuanian Deivydas Matulevicius prepares to make his debut against Alloa.
The towering striker, who has joined the Hibees on a two-year deal from Belgian side Royal Mouscron, in line to feature at Recreation Park after the capital club received international clearance for the switch.
Lennon is keen to see the 28-year-old in action, having been won over by his power and physicality in training – a dimension he has been actively looking to add to his ranks.
As well as getting the green light to field Matulevicius, Hibs also signed 6ft3ins midfielder Vykintas Slivka from Juventus this week, ensuring Lennon has no fears regarding their ability to handle a scrap on their return to the Scottish Premiership.
He said: “Deivydas certainly will bring that presence we want and I think you always need a physical dimension.
“We needed it in the Championship last year, and we had [Grant] Holt come in and do that job for us really well at the top end of the pitch, especially when we get into the winter months and the pitches start to cut up.
“Deivydas will certainly fill that role, and Slivka is a talented, technical player who has a goal in him. He has good legs and that is what you need, I like my teams to have a physical presence and energy.”
Indeed, Slivka – unusually – received a glowing endorsement on Twitter from FC Den Bosch, the Dutch club with whom he spent 18 months on loan, with their official account writing “[He has] great stamina (box-to-box), good technique, skills and a nice guy as well.”
He has also plied his trade in Croatia and Serie B sides Ascoli and Modena after being regularly farmed out by Italian giants Juventus.
Now Lennon – who revealed that Paul Hanlon could make his first senior appearance since March today after battling back from a pelvis complaint – hopes Slivka will thrive with the stability of a three-year contract in Scotland and prove to be a sound investment.
Lennon continued: “I was shown footage of him last season and I liked what I saw. We have kept an eye on him and he ended up being a free, so hopefully he can adapt to the game and there may even be a resale value on him later on, which, for a young player, is what you are always looking for.
“He already has experience of a few countries and league, which can be a good thing, but hopefully now he can settle, have a bit of stability in his career and perform as well as we believe he can.”
Hibs’ summer business now extends to seven signings, with Ofir Marciano, Steven Whittaker, Efe Ambrose, Danny Swanson and Simon Murray also arriving – a group that boasts a combined 144 caps at international level. The capture of Anthony Stokes also remains a priority.
Allied with a heartening Betfred Cup campaign to date – a win against Alloa today will see them qualify for the last-16 – Lennon is enthused, but realistic, about the upcoming season.
He added: “That is experience is good, but it doesn’t guarantee you anything. However, we have a lot of players who have played at this level before and at an even higher level so I think we have done some great business.
“I am very pleased and the squad is starting to take shape. We are playing well, there have been definite improvements in the games as we have gone along. We are looking good but I am not getting carried away.”