Hibs boss Pat Fenlon believes he’s unearthed more than half a team from within the Easter Road club’s youth academy as Alex Harris, Ross Caldwell, Danny Handling and Jordon Forster have begun to establish themselves in his squad.
Fenlon is also looking forward to the likes of Sam Stanton, Dean Horribine and Bradley Donaldson staking their claim for first-team football as the new season gets under way.
Harris earned himself rave reviews, not least for the stunning goal which sparked Hibs’ remarkable comeback against Falkirk in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup, the 18-year-old ending the season with 14 first- team appearances, while Caldwell played 19 times, the highlight being the last-gasp winner in the final derby of the season, a match in which Forster made his debut, and Handling notched up 18 games.
The quartet, all teenagers, featured in the Scottish Cup final against Celtic and although that ended in heartbreak, Fenlon believes the group, who started the season in Hibs’ Under-20 side, have bright futures.
He said: “In the last five weeks of the season we have maybe got some players we did not think were ready at the moment and that’s a major plus for us because, obviously, we do not have loads of money to go and get players.
“Jordon’s performance in the cup final as a centre-half was different class for such a young boy coming in against a good team like Celtic. Alex also did well and getting Danny and Ross on the pitch as well will help them, no doubt about that.”
Stanton spent the second half of the season on loan at Cowdenbeath to gain much-needed experience, but his stay at Central Park was cut short by a knee injury. Fenlon, however, insisted it won’t be long before he, and others, make the step-up. He said: “Sam was out for a long time but he’s been back training. There’s a lot to be positive about.”
Meanwhile, Handling, who scored twice as Scotland’s Under-20 side beat Brazilian outfit Cruzeiro in the opening match of the 60th Ado Den Haag Youth Tournament in Holland, missed a penalty as Billy Stark’s team went down 2-1 to Mexico’s Under-20s in the semi-final, Hearts kid Jordan McGhee having headed the young Scots into an early lead.