Hibs boss Pat Fenlon today revealed 17-year-old Sam Stanton is on the verge of a first team debut.
The young midfielder has impressed the new Easter Road manager over the course of recent weeks, training alongside Fenlon’s squad and playing in a series of closed doors matches in addition to turning out for the club’s Under-19 side. Stanton was included in the squads which travelled to Pittodrie and Tannadice last month before claiming a place on the bench for the visit of Inverness Caley and doing so again last weekend for the crucial SPL relegation scrap with Dunfermline.
Although Stanton – no relation to Easter Road legend Pat – wasn’t called into action, Fenlon disclosed that he is simply waiting for the ideal opportunity to blood the youngster.
Also among the substitutes at East End Park was 20-year-old Scott Smith, who made his debut in the 5-0 Scottish Communities League Cup hammering of Berwick Rangers before being farmed out on loan to Brechin City.
And as with Stanton, Fenlon insisted that with Smith, who was part of the side which won the SFA Youth Cup and SPL Under-19 League double, he is merely biding his time before giving him his chance.
Fenlon said: “I feel the two of them have done really well in training and Sam has been fantastic in the bounce games we have played - he hasn’t looked out of place.” However, he conceded Hibs’ current predicament, eased ever so slightly with that win at Dunfermline, was making him cautious, although he insisted that even just the experience of being in and around the first team squad on a matchday will prove to be of enormous benefit to the youngsters.
Revealing there are more youngsters close to joining Stanton and Smith in his plans, Fenlon said: “It’s about getting them in at the right time. But I think having them on the bench gives them an idea of how things work on matchdays, how different it is from youth level and our bounce games.
“That will help them in their careers long-term.”
Meanwhile, St Mirren manager Danny Lennon has claimed that Jim Goodwin is mulling over a pre-contract agreement with Hibs. The Irish midfielder reaches the end of his current deal this summer and has been offered a contract extension by the Saints.
Lennon said that Hibs counterpart Pat Fenlon had notified him of the Easter Road club’s intention to make the player an offer but insisted he would do everything he could to keep him at St Mirren.
“Pat phoned me and they’ve exercised their right,” Lennon explained. “Hibs want to speak with Jim Goodwin regarding a pre-contract. Whilst we have been at the table with Jim, got a figure from him and matched it, the goalposts have changed slightly with the interest from Hibs. Jim is only exercising his right to get the best deal for his family. But we’ll do everything we can to make sure that Jim remains at this football club because he’s been terrific for us.”