It’s been a crazy mixed up season for Hibs kid Oli Shaw as he juggles not only playing for the Easter Road outfit’s development team but League One side Stenhousemuir and Scotland.
“It’s a hectic schedule,” admitted the 18-year-old, fresh back from a three-nation tournament in Andorra which saw the young Scots qualify for the UEFA Under-19 Championships Elite Round for the fifth year in succession.
And, to underline just how hectic, he reels off the fact that last week he played Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday and again on Wednesday night, those games stretching from Ochilview to the tiny Pyreneesian state and back to Edinburgh.
The young striker, however, remains non-plussed, shrugging off such a punishing schedule by saying: “That’s what you want to do, play football.
“I’d played for Stenhousemuir on the Saturday then immediately met up with the Scotland squad to go to Andorra for ten days – I had to ask where it was – and then on Wednesday night I played for Hibs away to Hamilton in the Development League.
“Andorra was a different experience, being away for so long but we did well, winning our first two games against Liechtenstein and the hosts to qualify for the Elite Round. Now it’s a case of seeing who we get in that when the draw is made next week.”
Shaw admitted he was taken aback when called up by Scotland having never featured for his country at any level before being named in the squad for two friendlies in Greece in September.
A first international goal against Sweden at the newly-opened Oriam, the national training centre at Riccarton, was followed by a second – from the penalty spot – to dispose of Liechtenstein, Shaw now feeling totally at home within the international set-up.
He said: “I didn’t really expect a call-up but then I got an email congratulating me and telling me where to report to.
“I knew a couple of the boys and had played against most of them although I didn’t really know anyone personally so there was that wee bit of apprehension but they are a great bunch of lads and, having been away with them in Andorra, I’ve got to know them well.”
International travel is a far cry from pitching up at Stenhousemuir but it is there, Shaw insisted, he’s learning his craft, competing against players almost twice his age.
He said: “I’d had a chat about going out on loan to gain first-team experience and then coming back to try to get into Neil Lennon’s thoughts and it’s been great for me.
“It’s a huge step-up from the development squad, much more physical and I’m up against big centre-halves, experienced players who have seen it all and done it all.
“They aren’t going to make any allowances for my age and inexperience but I’m used, as a striker, to picking up bumps and bruises. That’s nothing knew. It’s just that they are harder bumps and bruises.
“I’m trying to find my way in the game but having someone like Colin McMenamim alongside me is great. He’s got a huge amount of experience having played for quite a number of clubs and he’s always giving me tips like how to use my body against the big defenders.
“It’s a bit weird going from playing against guys like that with Stenhousemuir to playing for Hibs development squad when I can find myself up against a 16-year-old defender.
“But I give it my all in every game. I enjoy my football both on a Saturday and during the week.”
Shaw admitted joining the part-time Warriors was a bit of an eye-opener given the five-star training facilities Lennon’s players enjoy at East Mains.
He said: “I train with Hibs on a Monday, usually have a development game on a Tueday, Wednesday is my day off and then on a Thursday I’ll train at East Mains, leave early-ish and get home for 45 minutes before going training at Stenhousemuir that night.
“You see some of the boys coming straight from work eating a meal deal from Tesco but that just shows their love for the game. They have exactly the same mentality we have at Hibs, they train hard and look forward to their game on a Saturday. They’ve been great to me, pleased to see me called up by Scotland and asking all about it saying they wish they could have done it. They also ask what we do in training during the week at East Mains – and what the gaffer is like.”
Such are Shaw’s commitments he finds himself torn between Stenhousemuir and Hibs this weekend, the Ochilview club away to Alloa on Saturday while the Easter Road club’s youngsters face Dundee in the SFA Youth Cup the following day.
However, it will surprise no-one to learn Shaw would happily play in both. He said: “I’m not sure yet what’s happening. Dundee knocked us out of the cup at Dens Park last season so we want to put that right. I’m only 18 so two games in two days won’t bother me.”