Lee Johnson is adamant he has no concerns about continuing to play Ryan Porteous in his Hibernian side even though the Scotland centre-back could be set for an exit as soon as next month.
The Easter Road club announced last month that they had given up hope of persuading the 23-year-old – whose current contract expires at the end of this season – to sign a new deal.
Porteous is free to hold pre-contract talks with other clubs from the turn of the year, but manager Johnson has no worries about fielding the defender until he departs the club.
“Yeah, I’m 100 per cent confident on that,” he said when asked about Porteous’ focus. “I’ve maintained a really good personal relationship with Ryan over this period of time, and that’s because there’s a respect for how he is in training, for his personality, for his will to win.
“I would never put a player out on the pitch that I didn’t think was committed to Hibs, and that won’t change. In Ryan’s case, I do believe he is committed to Hibs because I see it every day. I see the professionalism and the attitude.”
Hibs will not get a fee for the homegrown Porteous if he runs down his contract and leaves at the end of the season and Johnson admits they will be open to negotiating with interested parties next month.
“We’re not shying away from the fact we will trade Ryan,” he said. “If the price is right and there is logic behind the offer we receive – and to date I don’t believe we’ve had any offers – and we can justify potentially bringing in a new recruit or pushing that money into various parts of the business, then of course we’ll look to do it.
“We’ve got enough bodies, so there is a succession plan.”
Johnson, who took over in May, admits Hibs’ recent transfer business has not always been up to scratch and that they have work to do to get the squad where he wants it.
Asked about the upcoming January transfer window, the manager said: “To be honest, the big focus for us will be the outs. I feel like the squad, for a number of reasons, has been swollen.
“I’m very clear in the plan and how I see the next three or four windows evolving, and we’ve got some great young players at the club I’m desperate to create a pathway for over the next 18-24 months.
“I want to increase the quality and to do that you have to spend wisely and use every penny to perfection, and we haven’t always done that. We haven’t been ‘top’ so far in the windows and that’s something we’ve got to improve moving forward.”
Hibs return to Premiership action away to Rangers on Thursday hoping for an upturn in fortunes after finishing the pre-World Cup fixtures with six defeats in seven.
“I don’t think we’ve been as bad as the perception,” said Johnson. “But we are truly still an evolving squad. On Thursday you will potentially see three or four players in the starting line-up who haven’t really been involved a lot this season.
“We’re still a ‘work in progress’ 16 games into the season and I think we’ll remain that well past the halfway point and potentially even longer. I think we’ve made too many changes in terms of the numbers we’ve brought in, and the number of foreign players who have had to adapt.”