Maurice Malpas today tipped Hibs kid Sam Stanton to go to the very top in football, but insisted the talented midfielder has made the right decision to stay at Easter Road.
Malpas revealed other clubs were already beginning to cast an envious eye over the 19-year-old who, in the space of a few months, has established himself as a first-team regular, his progress winning him a new four-year deal which ties him to the Capital club until the summer of 2018.
Although Stanton still had a year of his contract to run, boss Terry Butcher has moved quickly to ensure the youngster – a lifelong Hibs fan – won’t be going anywhere in a hurry.
Today assistant manager Malpas was adamant Stanton’s remarkable progress can continue in a green and white shirt rather than him chasing the money by following other promising Scottish youngsters down south only to “disappear and be forgotten about”.
The former Scotland internationalist said: “I think we’ve got a lot of excellent young players in Scottish football. I think we just knock them too much because they get bad advice and go away down south because they’re getting a buck more than they’re getting up here.
“And they get stuck, they go and play in Under-20 football or whatever age group it is in England and they stop progressing. They lose that buzz because they’re not playing in front of a crowd.
“It’s good we’ve kept Sam here so he learns his trade and does well for the club. I know there were clubs watching him. But we were keen for him to stay. He likes the club – and he knows the club better than I do – so it was quite easy in that he was keen to get something sorted and so were we.”
Malpas revealed both he and Butcher had been pleasantly taken aback by the impact Stanton has made in such a short space of time. He said: “When we first came I think he was a sub at best. Then he got his chance and he took it, he was ready for it.
“And he’s handled it well. He doesn’t get carried away, he works hard, he listens and learns. Since we’ve been here he’s been excellent, a young kid, a lovely lad who is desperate to learn and improve. He’s level-headed and on the pitch he’s shown his ability. He can beat people, he’s got a change of pace, he’s energetic and he can score a goal. He’s been a breath of fresh air coming into the first team and having an impact.”
Asked how far he thought Stanton could go, Malpas replied: “He’s got a right good chance – but don’t jump the gun too much. He’s got things that excite the crowd, One-on-one he’s a handful. He’s very athletic, he’s got great energy. That’s the type of person the fans love to see.”
Hibs have now tied up Stanton and fellow youngsters Jordon Forster and Alex Harris on long-term deals and Malpas is convinced that will act as a spur to other youngsters at Easter Road.
He said: “The younger ones have earned whatever contract they’ve got. I enjoy watching the Under-20 games and seeing players improve. Sam’s improved since we’ve come here and that’s because of Sam, not because of us. He’s taken on board what we’ve been pointing out. It’s up to the kids, if they want to get something they’ve got to go and work their tail off to get it. It’s important that they can see a pathway there. We’re keen for them to develop and be a big part of our squad.”