Paul Heckingbottom concedes Hibs may be priced out of permanent Marc McNulty deal if new Scotland call-up continues his blistering form

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HIBERNIAN head coach Paul Heckingbottom admits the Easter Road outfit could be priced out of the race to sign loan star Marc McNulty if the shock Scotland call-up continues to excel.

Heckingbottom acknowledges that he has ‘given lots of thought’ to the notion of snapping up the 26-year-old – who boasts six goals in eight outings for the Hibees – on a permanent deal.

He is hopeful the fact McNulty has achieved international recognition so early into his stint in the capital, allied with his family roots in Edinburgh, will prove to be major draw for the player.

Nevertheless, Heckingbottom is not ignorant of the massive challenges any transfer would need to overcome. McNulty penned a four-year contract with Reading last July and, should he still be out of the picture at the Madejski Stadium this summer, the Championship side will be keen to recoup some of the £1 million fee they paid.

“Have I thought about keeping Marc? I’ve given it lots of thought,” smiled Heckingbottom. “But there are so many things involved in that.

“If it was ever viable, it comes down to the player wanting to move as well. And one thing we know – and Marc understands – is how good we can be for each other.

“We will continue to keep pushing and improving him.

“However, we may do that to such an extent where we rule ourselves out financially. I’ve got used to that over the years, that’s just the way it is.”

Heckingbottom revealed he was a fan of McNulty from the attacker’s time in English football with the likes of Sheffield United, Coventry and Portsmouth, ensuring his success at Hibs has come as no surprise.

And he fully believes McNulty has the character and quality to make the step up to the international stage and grasp the opportunity afforded by the absence of Steven Fletcher, Steven Naismith and Leigh Griffiths.

“I was aware of him from his time at Sheffield United and then at Coventry a lot of people started to really take notice,” continued the former Barnsley and Leeds boss. “He has shown exactly what I’d imagined of him. He’s not surprised me in any way and that’s pleasing.

“He will have a lot to learn with Scotland but he is a good footballer, he’s got a good brain and he can score all sorts of goals.

“He’s not the finished article, he has to keep working and striving to get better, but this is a real opportunity. I hope he impresses in training and any game time he gets. If you do that people can’t ignore you – it’s a carrot dangling there.”

As he begins to consider how his recruitment drive for next season will shape up, Heckingbottom believes the sight of McNulty, Ofir Marciano, Gael Bigirimana and Vykintas Slivka representing their countries will only strengthen Hibs’ position in the market.

“We have players away all over the world with different youth set-ups and senior international set-ups so Hibs is a good place to come and play,” added Heckingbottom. “We’d be foolish not to use that in future recruitment.”

McNulty will seek to build on a fairytale few days when in-form Motherwell visit Easter Road on Saturday, buoyant from a run of six wins from their last eight outings.

Stephen Robinson’s side will leapfrog the Hibees – still unbeaten in the league under Heckingbottom – into sixth spot with a victory in Leith as the battle for a top-half finish heats up.

“A lot of hard work has been done but we are still not guaranteed that [top-six] place,” he continued. “In Motherwell, we have a team that’s in just as good – if not better – form than us so we know how tough it is going to be.

“They’ll be coming here thinking they are running out of games and may see it as last chance. These games will be like cup finals to them and we have to be ready for that.”

 
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