Scottish Premier League

Hibs keen to keep on-loan trio

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Thu, 15 Nov 2012 17:41:00

Blackpool defender Alex Baptiste has been highly impressed by the start of Michael Appleton's reign at Bloomfield Road.

Ian Holloway's departure to Crystal Palace was confirmed hours before a rudderless Pool went down 4-1 at Derby 12 days ago.

A midweek victory over Sheffield Wednesday under caretaker manager Steve Thompson followed before Appleton was installed ahead of last Saturday's 2-2 draw with Bolton, and Baptiste insists the former Portsmouth boss has already made his mark.

"Obviously the Friday and the Saturday weren't the best," the 26-year-old said when discussing Holloway's departure. "It happened on the Friday night, we had a difficult game against Derby (on Saturday) and we didn't know until 12 o'clock Saturday.

"Monday was just business as usual, the assistant took over. We did a training session on Monday, had a great result on Tuesday and then the gaffer comes in on Thursday.

"Obviously it's a bit like you don't know what's happening, but over the last week the gaffer has brought a lot of structure to the club and his ideas are different class. You can tell why he's one of the brightest English managers coming through."

The Bahrain-based based investment bank have been in talks with chairman Ken Bates for weeks, but the club on Thursday have confirmed they have finally come to an agreement and the relevant documents are being sent to the Football League for ratification.

A club statement read: "GFH Capital have announced that they are in exclusive negotiations with Leeds United in respect of the proposed acquisition of the Club.

"The relevant agreements are being processed by the respective legal teams and information supplied to the Football League as required under their regulations."

Former Chelsea chairman Bates, 80, who took control of Leeds in 2005, has become increasingly unpopular with a growing number of fans due to a perceived lack of investment in the playing squad.

In April last year Bates announced he had bought a controlling 72.85 per cent stake of the club's shares from a Geneva-based company, Forward Sports Fund, while the club have made pre-tax profits of more than ?10million since the summer of 2007.

The 18-year-old has committed himself to the Parkhead club until summer 2016 after his decisive goal in the 2-1 Champions League win over the Catalans last week helped move negotiations along.

The composed finish was far from the only evidence that Watt could have a significant long-term impact at Celtic Park but it has heightened interest in the forward, who signed from Airdrie last year in a deal worth about ?80,000.

However, the teenager does not appear to be in danger of losing his grounded approach to his life and career.

"Everybody is stopping and talking to me and saying 'well done' for the Barcelona match," Watt said in a media conference at Celtic Park after signing his new deal on Thursday.

"Ever since then I've been happy. I've just taken it in my stride.

"It has happened so I can't dwell on it. It will be a good memory for the rest of my life but I just need to get on with the rest of my season and maybe look back at the end of the season.

"You don't want to go about bragging about it. It's obviously a big thing but other people have done it before and you need to take it in your stride.

"You don't want to be fazed by it and let it get in your head and start thinking you are better than what you are.

"It's a goal but I have got a lot more to do in my career."

Watt dismissed suggestions the goal would put pressure on him to keep achieving.

"All the fans are happy I scored," he added. "They are not putting pressure on me, they are just delighted that it's just a big deal for the club.

"Hopefully I can emulate that and help us go through to the last 16."

Watt's promise was evident from the moment he made his Celtic debut.

The teenager, whose pace, strength and skill offer him the potential to be an all-round striker, scored two goals within six minutes of coming on for his Celtic debut against Motherwell at Fir Park in April.

He has also scored six times this season, including one in each of Celtic's past three games.

But he said: "I will never get ahead of myself and I just need to keep my feet on the ground, and I will do.

"I have got to deal with the pressure of people saying I am going to be the next thing.

"I have just got to keep going and doing what I do and keep the hunger. I will always have the hunger when I play for this club.

"You never really believe you have made it. I have still got a long, long way to go to keep my place in the team and hopefully I can do that over the next two or three years.

"In football you are always learning. You are never going to be the finished article unless you are the likes of Messi or maybe Ronaldo."

Watt came into organised football later than most but soon made up for it by scoring goals for Airdrie's first-team after his potential was spotted by Diamonds boss Jimmy Boyle.

"A few people around me like Jimmy Boyle told me I had the ability to go on and do stuff like this," Watt said. "I never believed them and I was always hard on myself.

"Now he is the one that looks smart for saying that.

"I never thought I would make this impact when I came to Celtic but football is a weird game and it changes fast."

Watt will hope to continue making his mark when Celtic face third-placed Aberdeen in the SPL on Saturday.

"I had to pull out of the (Scotland) Under-21 squad because I was injured at the weekend and my ankle was sore," he said. "I have been getting treatment all week. Hopefully it will be okay. It's just a wee niggle."

Liam Kelly earned his first full Scotland cap in last night's 2-1 win in Luxembourg, while goalkeeper Cammy Bell was also called-up but did not feature in the match.

Rory McKeown completed the trio with an appearance for Northern Ireland Under-21s in their defeat against England on Tuesday.

Shiels is thrilled to see his players and the club earn international recognition but, with an SPL game at Dundee United on Friday night to prepare for, says the timing was not ideal.

He said: "You've got mixed feelings. You want them to be called up, it's recognition for our club.

"It's really pleasing that we're striking a chord with the international team and we're getting players capped and representing their country.

"But hopefully it doesn't have an adverse impact on their game preparation.

"We've had three players on international duty which isn't the best preparation but it happens to clubs all the time. We are just part of that.

"Saturday would have been better for the game for us."

On the prospect of playing on a Friday night, Shiels added: "The summer months - August, September, April, May - are good times but the climate really isn't conducive to supporters coming home from work and travelling.

"If it was Kilmarnock against Ayr, or Dundee and Dundee United, teams in close proximity, then I would say it could benefit the crowd.

"But I think it takes from the crowd a little bit. You just have to bite the bullet."

Killie striker Cillian Sheridan was more enthusiastic about the prospect of a Friday night fixture than his manager.

He said: "I don't mind the idea. It's something different, rather than 3pm on a Saturday all the time.

"I prefer playing in the evening rather than during the day. I've got no problem with it."

Sheridan is hoping to open his goal-scoring account against United in the clash at Tannadice.

He said: "They've got a lot of attacking players but, for me, I'm up against the defenders.

"I've actually never scored against Dundee United, the back four has always been really solid any time I've played against them.

"I'll be hoping to get my first goal against them.

"They will want a win after losing last week and we'll want to build on our win against Ross County so it should be a good game."

The Minstermen have performed better on the road since winning promotion to League two last May, with three wins, four draws and just one defeat and Mills is eagerly awaiting the challenge.

"It's another test for us, but it's a test we're going to relish, to enjoy and one we know we can come through and win if we play how we have been doing," said Mills. "I say again it's about putting the ball in the back of the net. We cannot keep creating as many chances as are without hitting the target. If the keeper saves it, he saves it, but we've got to start hitting the target more.

"But we're looking forward to it. It certainly doesn't daunt us going to Port Vale. We've had a couple of days' rest and have worked hard in training and we're ready for the challenge."

When asked if he was glad his side were playing away, Mills said: "We're probably not performing as well at home as we do away. That tends to happen and I'm not the only manager sitting here saying his side are doing better away from home, maybe relax a little bit more, not so much pressure to perform and produce the goods in front of your own fans.

"I think it's sad when it comes to that because we're all in this together and I think everybody has got to play their part and when we play at home it's got to be a fortress."

New Scotland international Griffiths joined Wolves on a two-and-a-half-year deal from Dundee in January 2011, but spent last season on loan at Hibs before returning in August until January.

The 22-year-old was rewarded for his 12-goal tally in the SPL with his first Scotland appearance in Luxembourg on Wednesday night, but his club future is still to be determined.

Hibs boss Pat Fenlon hopes to retain Griffiths, defender Ryan McGivern and midfielder Jorge Claros, whose loan deals from Manchester City and Motagua in Honduras, respectively, end in the new year.

"I've stayed out of it. I've left that up to the chairman (Rod Petrie), that's his job," Fenlon said.

"He's working away with Wolves and with Ryan McGivern at Man City and Jorge as well.

"It's a work in progress. We are trying very hard to keep the three boys.

"At this stage for us it will be extending them until the end of the season if we can."

Of Griffiths' Scotland call-up, Fenlon added: "I was delighted for him. He deserves it. He's worked really hard to get into that position."

Griffiths was on target in the 2-1 win over Dundee United which, coupled with Celtic's draw with St Johnstone, saw Hibs take top spot in the SPL.

Fenlon added: "There's a lot of confidence around the place at the moment, which is great. It makes a change from where we've been previously."

Following the win, Fenlon allayed fears over knee and ankle problems which saw Griffiths substituted.

Captain James McPake (back) and defender Tim Clancy (groin) missed the match and are doubts for the trip to Dens Park, but Fenlon expects McGivern, who failed a fitness test ahead of Northern Ireland's midweek international with Azerbaijan, to be fit.

Despite Dundee occupying the bottom of the table, Fenlon knows the challenge his side face, having lost at newly-promoted Ross County last month.

"It's as big a challenge as Dundee United, because they're fighting for their lives, they're scrapping away," Fenlon added.

"They've had some decent results that gives them confidence.

"We're not that good that we can be complacent. We know we've got to work hard in every game to make sure we get something out of it."

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