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Hibs boss Neil Lennon says he’ll always prefer to buy ‘home-grown players’

Hibernian manager Neil Lennon (SNS)
Hibernian manager Neil Lennon (SNS)

 

HIBERNIAN boss Neil Lennon admits he still prefers to buy British despite snapping up two Lithuanian bargains.

The Easter Road manager has signed frontman Deivydas Matulevicius from Belgian side Royal Mouscron and his international colleague Vykintas Slivka from Juventus this month.

Lennon admits he would have struggled to lure a duo who can boast 52 caps between them to Leith had they been playing south of the border in the cash-rich English set-up.

However, he reckons recruiting players who are familiar with the Scottish set-up will always be his first choice.

Asked if he will have to rely on the Eastern European market more in future, Lennon – who is still hoping to persuade Anthony Stokes to return to Edinburgh – said: “I hope not. We’re still looking to bring home-grown players in.

“Ideally, when you’re signing someone you want to bring in British-type players for the mentality side of it, because they know the Scottish culture and environment very well.

“We’ve brought in the two Lithuanians that were affordable and had the quality that we were looking for. But it’s not like we’re scouting round the whole of Europe to bring players in.”

Lennon has been enthused by the start his latest domestic import has made after watching Simon Murray bag a hat-trick against Arbroath on Tuesday night.

That took the striker’s tally to five goals in just three games, and he could yet have more by the time Hibs finish off their Betfred Cup group campaign at Alloa’s Indodrill Stadium on Saturday.

The former Arbroath and Dundee United frontman only made the step-up to senior football three years ago after starting his career in the juniors.

But Lennon reckons Murray is quickly finding his feet at the top level and has backed him to replace the goals his side have lost since Jason Cumming’s departure.

“It was fantastic to get a hat-trick in his second competitive game at home,” said Lennon.

“They were good goals as well and it will do his confidence the world of good, not that he needed it because he’s been playing very well.

“But strikers thrive on goals and he has certainly given us a good return so far.

“Can he become someone who scores prolifically? Yeah, why not? We’re not comparing him to Jason, they are different types.

“Simon is quite happy to go beyond and stretch teams. His movement is very good and he is incredibly fit.

“He always seems to be in the right place to score goals. He’s already got a couple of tap-ins, which are my favourite goals because we don’t get enough players in the box for my liking. But he’s getting himself where he needs to be.

“It’s been a very good start but there can be more to come from him. With his understanding of the game, he will learn from the guys he’s playing with.

“He’s only been in the professional game for a short time but his rise has been very quick and that’s all down to him, his dedication and his hunger. It’s important he maintains that hunger and pushes on.”

Matulevicius and Slivka could make their debuts against Alloa after receiving international clearance to complete their Easter Road moves, but Danny Swanson is suspended.