PAT FENLON insists Hibs have got the balance just right in terms of blooding youngsters in the first team.
The manager is keen to field more of the club’s talented Under-20s in the remaining weeks of the SPL campaign, with Dean Horribine and Jordon Forster, who have been on the bench in recent weeks, among those knocking on the door to follow Alex Harris, Danny Handling and Ross Caldwell in sampling first-team football.
However, while other clubs in Scotland have been more reliant on young players this season, Fenlon is very much in favour of the gradual approach when it comes to introducing youngsters.
He said: “We’ve got a really good group of Under-20s at the moment. [Head of Academy Coaching] James McDonaugh’s done a really good job coaching them. The boys that have come in haven’t let themselves down and there’s more young boys that we’d like to progress into the first team.
“It’s about picking the right time to put them in and then managing the expectations of the supporters if they do well, so that’s a management job in itself. Getting young players game time is really important to us, but it’s about putting them in to the right scenario. We think we’ve got the balance right so far.”
Caldwell, a regular from the subs’ bench in the first half of the season, got his first outing in over two months when he came off the bench against Aberdeen on Monday night. Fenlon admitted the 19-year-old had slipped down the pecking order after going slightly off the boil, but the manager is pleased to see him back on song as he bids to fulfil the potential which saw him become the first of the current batch of youngsters to make the step up to the first team.
He said: “We introduced Ross last year and he’s had a start this season as well, but then he tailed off a bit. Over the past three or four weeks, though, his training’s been good and he’s been performing well in the 20s, so he’s a player we have high hopes for.
“Sometimes with young players you go through difficult spells where you have to really work with them, but Ross has got real qualities so it’s up to us to get them out of him.”