Lee Johnson admits Jake Doyle-Hayes could leave Hibernian in January after the club accepted an offer from Forest Green.
The 24-year-old midfielder – who has not played since September as he battles back from an ankle injury sustained in a training-ground tackle from his manager – has become the subject of interest.
Although boss Johnson rates Doyle-Hayes and would be open to keeping him, the Easter Road club are keen to trim their squad and the Irishman has been given the chance to make a decision on whether to join the EFL club.
“The club have accepted an offer,” he confirmed. “There is other interest as well. I genuinely don’t know whether it will happen or not. When the club accept an offer it shows the finances are in a place that the club are happy with but, on the football front, I’m more than happy if Jake decides to stay here and not accept that. That’s absolutely fine by me.
“I like Jake, I think he’s a really good footballer. I think we’ve missed his qualities in certain games. He’s a player I’ve always trusted and always had on the pitch, either from the start or from the bench.”
Johnson said Hibs have still had no firm offers for want-away defender Ryan Porteous, who is free to speak to clubs about a pre-contract from this weekend onwards. The Easter Road side will get a taste of life without the Scotland centre-back – who has been deployed in midfield recently – as he sits out Monday’s Edinburgh derby away to Hearts through suspension.
“You don’t want to be without any top players,” said Johnson. “It’s as big a blow as it is not having Martin Boyle, but you’ve just got to deal with it.
“Suspensions are part of the game but we’ve got a number of different options to play that role.”
Johnson, who is not planning to have any new signings in for the derby, is excited about managing Hibs for the first time away to Hearts, the club at which he had a short spell as a player in 2006.
“Hearts are obviously a good side,” he said. “They’re very well established in terms of consistency, that’s what we’re looking for. We feel we can compete with them on any given day, but they’ve got consistency of recruitment, they’ve got a consistency with their finances, buffed up by what they got in from reaching the European group stages via their own good work.
“We’ve got to make sure we give everything and show our supporters we are genuinely competing in the same echelons of the table.”
Johnson is hoping Wednesday’s 4-0 defeat at home to league leaders Celtic does not cause his team to lose any belief generated by their own 4-0 victory against 10-man Livingston on Christmas Eve.
“I actually feel really positive about where we are,” he said. “I think Celtic will end up scoring 10 against someone this season, I really do.
“They’re a top, top team and I thought in spells we genuinely did well, particularly the first 15-20 minutes. I think the Livingston game is a good marker for us. I don’t want there to be any drop of confidence from the Livingston game based on the Celtic game just because of the quality of Celtic.”