Pat Fenlon believes Sam Stanton can help ease the loss of wide men Alex Harris and Paul Cairney, with the Hibs boss adamant that the 19-year-old is now ready to stake his claim to become a first-team regular.
The young midfielder has yet to start a match for Hibs, his six appearances so far having come as a substitute but, with fellow teenager Harris and Cairney ruled out for the next three months thanks to serious ankle injuries, Fenlon has thrown the door open for him. Stanton himself has only recently recovered from his own injury hell after suffering a bad knee problem just two games into a loan spell with Cowdenbeath, where he’d gone in January with the intention of picking up some first-team experience.
But now Fenlon is ready to grant him the opportunity to follow fellow homegrown youngsters Harris, Danny Handling, Ross Caldwell and Jordon Forster in forcing their way into the first-team squad.
He said: “We have good young players, but it’s all about getting them into the team at the right time and, with Alex missing, it might give Sam a little chance to get himself playing a bit more. We sent him on loan last year but he got injured and that knocked him back a bit. But he has come back, his pre-season has been quite good and I feel he is one that will force his way into the team fairly quickly.”
The injuries to Harris and Cairney have resulted in Fenlon stepping up the search for a winger. The manager has not given up on persuading former Celtic star Paddy McCourt to sign on at Easter Road although he accepts a player he once managed at Derry City has other options, as evidenced by the fact he’s currently training with Barnsley.
While Fenlon believes Stanton can offer a short-term answer to his shortage of wide players, he sees his long-term future in a more central role. He said: “Sam has that dip of the shoulder and change of pace but I think in time he’ll be more central. Technically he is very good and I think he is someone who can play in numerous positions which gives us different options.”