NEIL Lennon says John McGinn needs to steel himself for the possibility that a summer switch to Celtic will not happen, and has backed the unwavering Easter Road board’s stance over the transfer saga.

The Leith club have turned down a third bid – reportedly £2m – from the Parkhead club and are thought to be holding out for £4m for the Scotland midfielder.

McGinn, who has a year remaining on his current deal, is set to play his second competitive game of the season when Hibs entertain Greek outfit Asteras Tripolis in the Europa League this evening.

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Lennon has already conceded that the intense speculation centred on the 23-year-old has been ‘unsettling’ for the midfielder and even though the transfer window in Scotland still has more than a month to run, the Hibs manager says McGinn needs to consider that the Glasgow club might not be willing to pay the asking price.

“Listen, the deal might never happen,” said Lennon, who has dropped his interest in trialist Ivan Lendric, the former Croatia Under-21 forward. “He has to get his head around that as well, so we try to prepare him for all eventualities the best we can. 

“John is quite satisfied at the minute, I’ve had chats with him to see how he is because there will be people talking to him: the agent, family giving him all titbits of advice. I have been in that situation so 
I know how difficult it can be getting messages from here, there and everywhere. 

“Ideally, it is good for him to come in train and play. He is training well, he’ll play and until that situations changes he is a Hibs player. It’s a really difficult situation for him, at the end of the day John is a human being; he has feelings and emotions and it almost feels as if he is a bit exposed. We are trying to manage him the best we can.”

The Hibs board are thought to have taken into account the £4.5m they received from Celtic for Scott Brown in 2007 in placing a value on McGinn. With 33 per cent of any transfer fee set to go to McGinn’s former club St Mirren, Lennon insists he is more than happy with how the club directors are conducting themselves.

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Lennon, whose side will face either Norwegian side Molde or Laci of Albania if they overcome Tripolis in the second qualifying round, added:

“The club have been really strong and I totally back that. We have our valuation, he is our top player and no club yet has met that valuation that satisfies the club.

“I don’t get involved with the money side of things thankfully. I work for the club, the board, Leeann [Dempster, chief executive].

“I leave that to people smarter than me but I think the club have made their position pretty clear to Celtic what the club value the player at and that valuation has not been met. They run the club and to be fair to them they have run it pretty well recently. They have taken a really strong position on this and they are right to do that.”

Lennon, meanwhile, has warned his players not to get drawn into any antics from their Greek counterparts in tonight’s first leg at home. Lennon, whose team overcame Runavik of the Faroe Islands 12-5 on aggregate in the last round, added:

“They’re going to have to be smart, they’re going to have to be patient, try not to get too emotional. There may be some histrionics from the opposition that they’re not used to. They just have to ignore that and it’s difficult sometimes because they won’t be used to it. Hopefully the players will stay cold. From my own experience playing against some Greek sides in the past, particularly away from home – they are cute, they can do the dark side of the game quite well.”

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Defender Darren McGregor, meanwhile, admits he is keen to create memories of his own after hearing all about Lennon’s proud European pedigree. As a player, Lennon, a UEFA Cup runner up to Porto in 2003, came up against the cream of Europe playing in the Champions League, having played against the likes of Manchester United, Barcelona, AC Milan and Bayern Munich.

McGregor said: “Playing 38 games in one season and then finishing in fourth place, the fruits of our labour is European football.For us, as the gaffer says, he’s been there and done it – so it’s all about us and creating that legacy for ourselves to say that we’ve progressed in European competition and done well.

“If you would have said to me a couple of years ago that I would be in the Faroe Islands, I would have given you a strange look. But it was good to go there and a good experience, it’s building blocks and not just for me, who is tapering off, but the younger guys as well to get European football at such a young age. It’s also good for the fans, it’s creates that good morale around the stadium and just pushes us on and builds to adding make Hibs a well-known name.”