PAT FENLON today insisted his Hibs kids have a better chance than ever to make the big time after trimming his Easter Road squad to just 20 players.
Eighteen-year-old trio Ross Caldwell, Sam Stanton and Danny Handling have found themselves heavily involved in Fenlon’s first-team plans this season but Fenlon believes there are others who can quickly follow in their footsteps.
The departures of Sean O’Hanlon and David Stephens on transfer deadline day completed the trimming of a squad of 29 which Fenlon had inherited on becoming Hibs boss last November but now, he claimed, it’s more a matter of quality over quantity.
Fenlon made nine signings over the summer and is still looking to add at least one further new face as he scours the list of free agents still available, but he revealed he’s content with the squad currently at his disposal.
He said: “We have to be mindful of where we are financially, that we have to balance the books as well as bring player in, but I think the business we have done has been very, very good. We said we were going to change the squad around but not just sign players for the sake of it. When I came in last year we had 29 first-team players, now we probably have 19 or 20.
“That’s a big changeover. It’s not as big as it was, but it has improved in relation to quality.”
And Fenlon believes a smaller squad will give youngsters a better chance of breaking through. He said: “We haven’t brought Ross, Sam and Danny in because we feel they might come through but on the basis they will go and push for a place in the team.
“It’s a big challenge, a big step-up for them but they have done well at their age levels. The next step is to see if they can get into the first team although they’ve all been involved in nearly all the games.
“We firmly believe all three are capable and there’s a few others in there [the Under-20 team] close to challenging to play first team football.”
Meanwhile, Hibs fans are to have the chance to elect the next five inductees into the club’s Hall of Fame.
The event will take place at the Forthview Suite at Easter Road on November 9. Four of the inductees will be revealed next Thursday, with the final one to be chosen by fans who are being asked to chose their favourite player of the 1990s with the short list containing Gordon Hunter, Darren
Jackson, Keith Wright and Michel Weir.
Full details of the gala dinner and how to vote are on the club website.