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Inverness CT v Hibernian: Veteran striker is using his experience to good effect at Easter Road

IT is not immediately obvious that Shefki Kuqi's biggest strength is also his most understated.

Shefki Kuqi has acted as a mentor to Hibs' younger strikers during training
Shefki Kuqi has acted as a mentor to Hibs' younger strikers during training

The burly striker was a notable name during a summer that brought the arrival of a number of new faces at Hibernian, only his has not seemed to fit. The likes of Ryan McGivern, Ben Williams and Paul Cairney have all established themselves in the starting XI yet the Finn has featured only once, and that came in a Scottish Communities League Cup defeat by Queen of the South.

That was an uninspiring outing for a player who can count 62 caps for his country during a career largely spent traipsing around England. He was considered a strong and imposing striker during that time but his presence has seemed to become diminished at Easter Road and he has yet to convince anyone that he is suitable back-up to a strikeforce of Leigh Griffiths and Eoin Doyle.

Well, perhaps not everyone. While it is perhaps titillating to look at the small impact he has made on the Hibs first team and greater pressure he appears to be making on the waistband of his shorts, Kuqi has been far more effective behind closed doors. Ross Caldwell, the teenage striker who is likely to be given a starting place ahead of his experienced colleague and the injured Griffiths for the visit to Inverness today, has benefited most from the arrival of Kuqi.

The Finn is generous with his time and has taken Hibs' younger strikers aside during training drills to help explain how to make best use of their talents. That aid has helped place Caldwell ahead of him in the pecking order but the youngster is still quick to endorse his venerable team-mate.

"Shefki is experienced and helps off the pitch with things that fans do not see. You have to take into account," he said. "During our games in training, Shefki shows you how to use your body to take the ball in better and things like that and it is a great learning curve.

"He takes the likes of myself and Danny [Handling] aside and is really friendly and is always looking to teach you things. He never criticises and he really helps you out. You don't get that often, especially someone with all of the experience that he has."

Another forward who has found the Scottish game to be a firm grounding for his development is Phillip Roberts, who has extended his loan to Inverness Caledonian Thistle from Arsenal until the end of the season. The teenager has impressed during his short spell in the Highlands and his parent club have been happy enough to allow that to continue for the remainder of the campaign.

That has come as good news to Terry Butcher, who is also in talks with Josh Meekings about extending the defender's stay at the club. It is Hibs that will get all of his attention for this afternoon, though, with a win enough to put Inverness into second place.

"It is great to be involved in a top of the table clash with Hibs – mouthwatering, if you think about it," said the Inverness manager. "It is a game that really whets the appetite given the two clubs' league positions.

"We could go top or second in the table if we win and we're on a three-game unbeaten run so want to continue that. We seem to be racking up the points pretty well – we're undefeated in 17 of 20 matches – and we'd like more victories now."

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