Hibs academy coaching manager Eddie May believes the club’s youngsters will benefit from the professional influence of former Hearts players Grant Murray and Lee Makel.
May landed his role at Easter Road last summer and has helped oversee an overhaul in the way the club’s youth system operates.
The most significant changes have involved a turnover of coaches and players, as well as the introduction of a “quality over quantity” approach, with the number of players in the academy now down to 98 from 120 when he first arrived.
May believes that having fewer players working closely with coaches who have experience of Scottish football’s sharp end will prove a recipe for success.
To that end, he is thrilled that the likes of 40-year-old Murray, who had almost two decades as a player and then three years as manager of Raith Rovers, and 42-year-old Makel, who enjoyed a 20-year playing career with the likes of Newcastle, Blackburn Rovers, Hearts and Bradford City, are now involved at East Mains.
“The important thing now is that we’ve got coaches in who have played or coached at a good level where they will have picked up small details and can then pass on their experiences and information to the young players,” May said. “The difficult part of developing young players is getting them from 17s up to the full-time environment because that’s a massive step for them. How are we going to turn them into a first-team player? That’s why Grant’s come in. He’s in charge of individual player development and he’s going to work closer with [Under-20s coach] Joe McBride.
“Lee takes the 15s but he also comes in on a Friday to help with the 20s. That’ll bring an extra professional influence. We’ve also got Chris Smith in, who worked very closely with Darren Murray at Hearts and was a major part in producing Hearts’ young players. We’ve got very good coaches at the top end and we’ve also brought people in at the younger end. There’s been a major change.
“The people who were here before did a very good job, but I just feel that we’ve now gone to a different level because we’ve not got so many players and also because of the calibre of coaching they’re getting. It’s very much quality over quantity as that gives them more opportunities to play and develop. We have to be true to all the young players in the sense that we only take on players who we really think have got a chance to progress.”
May believes that too many young players in Scotland are content simply to be full-time footballers in the under-20s but lack the drive to be long-term professionals.
“The biggest problem for kids coming through the system is that they think they are coming to play under-20s,” he said. “If they are coming through the door they should be coming for one thing and that is to play in the first team. It is a mentality thing and it is trying to change that attitude where they are here to settle in for a year and kick on in the second year.
“As soon as you come through the doors you should be good enough to progress to the first team. A manager has enough pressure on at a club to win games of football. Our job at academy level is to teach kids the game as they come through the system.”
May was prominently involved in a Falkirk youth set-up which reared the likes of Scott Arfield, now playing at Burnley, and he believes there are already players at Hibs with the potential to go on and have prosperous careers.
“People say they need seven years to see rewards, but the truth is you need to work with players already in the system to try and make them better,” he said. “That’s what happened when I went to Falkirk.
“There were players already in the system who went on to have good careers. We have better players in the system at Hibs just now than what we had when I first took over at Falkirk. We’re hoping that if we do the right things these boys should kick on and have good careers like these boys who are now down playing in the English Championship.”