Terry Butcher today promised Hibs’ kids they’ll be given every chance to join the Easter Road club’s “Wall of Fame”, describing the Edinburgh outfit’s youth system as “phenomenal”.
The Hibs boss revealed he’s already excited by the youngsters in his squad with Jordon Forster, Sam Stanton, Alex Harris, Danny Handling and Jason Cummings – all aged 20 and under – vying to play against champions Celtic tomorrow. Although he conceded all five might not make his starting line-up, Butcher believes the quintet – and others – have a bright future in a green-and-white shirt, admitting he sometimes forgets just how young the kids actually are.
He said: “For us it’s only a matter of weeks since we arrived but people like Stanton, Forster and even Cummings now have been around for some time. Stanton in particular has been in the first team for some time. He made his debut two years ago so he is an experienced youngster, if there is such a thing, and that excites me.
“They all excite me, with their naivety, their eagerness their energy and their flexibility. If they miss the target or a pass they will bounce back. They just keep on going. They are asking questioins of themselves each and every game and training session and they are coming on really well. It would be great if the youngsters were to play tomorrow. I’m not saying they will, I am not saying they won’t but they have shown great promise.
And Butcher insisted, contrary to the view of some that he’s loath to turn to youth, the exact opposite is true. He said: “Someone said to me when I first came here that I don’t promote youngsters very well, that I never seem to have a lot of young players coming through.
“In all fairness to Caley Thsitle, the youth system does very well, but there is not the catchment area thta Hibs have, or the facilities, the coaches and scouts. With that comes a lot of young players and they are quality as well.
“I play the youngsters if they are good enough, it doesn’t matter what age they are. I gave David Clarkson his first games at Motherwell, William Kinniburgh too. At Inverness Graeme Shinnie and Nick Ross came through the youth system, Graeme has played a lot of games now, Nick is catching him up.
“Players like that excite you and the crowd because they have come through the system.”
And Butcher insisted one look at the office wall of Bill Hendry. Hibs academy manager, to realise the importance Hibs youth system. He said: “Bill has pictures of all the stars who have come through. It’s phenomenal. We are up against one tomorrow in Scott Brown but you can see in England and Scotland and the Scottish national team players who have come through the system here. It does excite you and give you a good feeling.”
Recalling how he had to play youngsters at Motherwell as the Fir Park club crashed into administration, Butcher insisted there wasn’t that need at Easter Road where the kids have plenty of experienced team-mates to lean on. He said: “It’s not a case of having to play the youngsters now, but whether you decide to play them.
“Why you decide to play them is because they give you energy and they are exciting. They are not perfect, there are still faults, but theri strengths outweigh the faults. And their innocence is good to see too, although we do not want too much innocence tomorow.
“Even teams who have battle-hardened pros have been turned over by Celtic. We saw what Celtic did to the younger kids at Hearts. We have not quite gone to that extremem using our kids as Hearts, they have had to go that. We have good senior pros allied with the kids, that can make a good blend too.”