Fletcher the latest to head for Hibs exit

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The Independent Online

Steven Fletcher yesterday signalled his intention to become the latest young Scot to move to a bigger stage when the Hibernian striker, 20, a Scotland under-21 international likely to graduate to full honours soon, announced he wants to leave Easter Road in January. "It is a shame it has come to this," said the player's agent, Scott Fisher, who added that Hibs' latest contract offer was "insulting". Fletcher, who has scored seven times in 13 games, is likely to attract interest from the Old Firm and possibly further afield.

Hibs, who operate on a tight budget and cannot compete with major clubs' wage levels, have already lost 10 key first-team players in the past 18 months. Scotland's Scott Brown and New Zealand's Chris Killen went to Celtic in the summer, while Northern Ireland's Ivan Sproule went to Premiership-chasing Bristol City, Steven Whittaker to Rangers, goalkeeper Simon Brown to Brentford, and Michael Stewart to Hearts. Before that, Kevin Thomson went to Rangers in January, while last year striker Garry O'Connor went to Lokomotiv Moscow (and then Birmingham), and Derek Riordan and Gary Caldwell went to Celtic.

Despite such departures, Hibs lie third in the SPL table, within a win of the summit before they host fourth-placed Dundee United today. Celtic, leaders with 28 points, host Aberdeen.

The lunch-time kick-off sees Rangers, in second place, also on 25 points, travel to Falkirk, with key players among the Ibrox contingent – not least the rising Scotland star, Alan Hutton – hoping to put last weekend's Euro 2008 disappointment against Italy behind them.

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