Dave Challinor explains Aidan Keena's international clearance process as Hartlepool United hope to have the striker available for trip to Yeovil Town

Almost one week after signing for Hartlepool United, striker Aidan Keena could have to wait another week to make his debut with his international clearance still yet to come through.

Thursday, 16th January 2020, 6:53 pm
Aidan Keena of Hearts celebrates scoring his team's fourth goal during the Scottish Cup 5th Round match between Heart of Midlothian and Auchinleck Talbot at Tynecastle Stadium on February 10, 2019 in Edinburgh, Scotland.  (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Aidan Keena of Hearts celebrates scoring his team's fourth goal during the Scottish Cup 5th Round match between Heart of Midlothian and Auchinleck Talbot at Tynecastle Stadium on February 10, 2019 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The Irish frontman signed from Scottish Premiership side Hearts to become Dave Challinor’s first permanent signing as Hartlepool manager.

And despite travelling down to Dover Athletic last weekend, the 20-year-old was unable to be included in the matchday squad due to his international clearance not being granted in time.

As Keena has moved from Scotland to England, international clearance is required in order to be eligible for selection.

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Hartlepool United striker Aidan Keena (photo: HUFC).

But ahead of another mammoth journey down to Yeovil Town on Saturday (3pm kick-off), Pools are still waiting for their new striker to be available.

Keena will make the voyage down to Huish Park with the squad as Challinor hopes to hand the young forward his debut.

“I’m really hopeful the clearance will come through before Saturday’s game,” said the United manager.

“I knew when we signed him last week the chances of the clearance going through before Dover were slim to none.

“The way things have been, the FA have been receptive to looking at things so hopefully we’ll get positive news on that front because it would be a welcome addition to what is a pretty tight squad in terms of players.

“Hopefully he can get straight into action this weekend.”

Pools have previously had to be patient in waiting for international clearance for players.

The arrival of Gavan Holohan from the Republic of Ireland last season saw Hartlepool have to wait over a week before the midfielder became available to play for the club due to international clearance. The process can take up to two weeks.

I’ll be careful what I say, as daft as it sounds, you think the processes would be pretty quick,” Challinor added.

“I think in terms of both associations, as much as they’re big organisations, aren’t blessed staff wise with millions of employees so it can be a process that can take a while.

“The one positive that we have with it being done cross border is that it’s done through FIFA so it goes on TMS [Transfer Matching System, online] which should make it quicker and we’re also in a transfer window so the associations are switched on so hopefully things will get pushed through.”

Pools currently have two senior strikers available for selection in Nicke Kabamba and Niko Muir, who returned from his loan spell at Hemel Hempstead earlier this week.

Gime Toure will serve the last of his three game suspension this weekend before returning to the fray while Luke James is expected to remain on the sidelines until at least April with a serious groin injury.

While Keena will make the journey down to Yeovil, Challinor will have to prepare his side for the potential event where the forward isn’t available to play.

“We’ll prepare with both in mind,” he added.

“In terms of the team we’ll select, everyone who we’ve got out training will be aware about what the game plan is and what we want to do.

“With international clearance, it’s not like the registration stuff, it could come through at 12 o’clock on a Saturday and he could play so we’ll just wait and see and be reactive around that.

“Whoever goes in will know what their duties are and what their roles and responsibilities are which is the most important thing.

“It won’t make a massive difference for us but I’m sure for Aidan it’s important because he’d rather be safe in the knowledge that he can be involved.”

Keena joined Hearts from League of Ireland Premier Division side St Patrick's Athletic as a teenager but failed to establish himself in the first team set-up.

The youngster did enjoy productive loan spells at lower division sides Queen’s Park and Dunfermline Athletic where he scored 12 goals in 26 league matches over two seasons.

Now he’s hoping to make a name for him south of the border in the National League at Hartlepool.

Although the Republic of Ireland under-21 international is yet to make his debut, the Pools manager has been encouraged by the early signs in training this week.

“He’s settled in really well,” Challinor continued.

“He’s one who has been away from home in a different county for a while so in terms of him moving, I don’t think the transition will be massive because he’s been used to living on his own or with his girlfriend for a few years so him coming down here will be a quick turnaround.

“Hopefully we’ll get clearance and we can get him involved. What he’s shown in the short space of time here is what we’d hoped we’d seen as in he’s a striker that wants to score goals, will back himself and looks to get shots away from wherever he can and gets himself in good areas.

“The group is a really good group in getting lads coming from the outside to settle in so I didn’t think there’d be issues with that anyway so for him, he’ll want to get started as quickly as he can.”