Leeann Dempster reveals Hibs’ future vision

Elite young players, like Sam Stanton, will have a pathway for development
Elite young players, like Sam Stanton, will have a pathway for development
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New Hibs chief executive Leeann Dempster has unveiled her vision for the future of the Easter Road club with the changes she intends to implement set to gather pace with the arrival of George Craig as head of football operations.

Dempster is currently interviewing candidates for the vacant manager’s post with Mark Venus, former boss Tony Mowbray’s assistant, the latest favourite with the bookies following a flurry of bets on the 47-year-old who also worked alongside Mogga at West Brom, Celtic and Middlesbrough.

But she has also been busy drawing up a football plan for the club which, while much of the detail will remain an internal document, Dempster believes supporters should understand what it will entail and the values it will enshrine.

Hibs have already announced a tie-up with Spartans which envisages a jointly run Transition Academy initially focusing on the development of the most promising eight to 11-year-olds identified by coaches from the two clubs but Dempster is aiming to introduce a wide-ranging plan stretching from grassroots football to the first team.

Key aspects will include a big increase in grassroots football; a review and evaluation of the academy structure; creation of individual development plans for elite young players to assist transition from the academy to the first team; structured and strategic player pathways between academy, under-20s and first team; introduction of a holistic performance athlete development plan and a structured and fully resourced player identification and recruitment process for players joining the club at all ages.

Dempster said: “Starting from the absolute grassroots, we need to get more kids playing football in Hibernian strips. That means a genuine football role for the Foundation in developing bigger programmes to involve more children in football. Apart from getting youngsters more active, it has two big effects – it creates a bigger talent pool for us to choose from, and it also creates Hibernian supporters of the future.”

Insisting it is “not acceptable” for Hibs to lose out on talented local boys to other Scottish clubs, Dempster is adamant the club needs to improve its player identification and recruitment at academy level where, she believes, everything possible must be done to enhance efforts to produce players who can progress through the ranks to the first team.

She said: “We need to ensure that we have the best coaching syllabus, individual development programmes, diet and fitness advice, to ensure that our most talented young players are given all the help they need to become not only talented footballers but genuine athletes.”

Stressing the need for all players to understand the importance of sports science and other modern performance enhancing methods, she said: “In order to perform at the very highest level of the game a player now has to fully support his ability and potential with the power, pace and endurance levels of a top performance athlete.

“Only the sport is different, the principles are the same. An extra yard of pace or increased physical endurance could make the difference between winning or losing or between a long and successful career or a career of injury or missed opportunity.”

Young players will also be given help to develop academically and as good citizens, recognising that not all will make the grade, while, Dempster revealed, additional support will be given around social media training, media training and so on.

“We need to ensure our players understand their responsibiliies to the club and the supporters,” she said. “If we do that, all of these small things will add up to something very significant in terms of Hibernian developing better footballers, athletes and professionals.”