Ben Stirling '˜will be next youngster to make Hibs breakthrough'
Hibs boss Neil Lennon has tipped 19-year-old midfielder Ben Stirling to become the next youngster to make the breakthrough at Easter Road after cutting short a loan spell at Cowdenbeath to push him into his first-team squad.
Stirling was part of the travelling party which spent last week in the Algarve, using the winter break to prepare for the second half of the season, just one of five teenagers to make the trip.
Lennon has already watched striker Oli Shaw make the step-up along with defender Ryan Porteous and midfielder Fraser Murray, but now he has high hopes for both Stirling and Polish goalkeeper Kevin Dabrowski.
Stirling played the full 90 minutes against Excelsior Rotterdam and part of a second game against another Dutch side Willem II in Portugal and did himself no harm in the eyes of Lennon, who said: “It’s up to Ben, but we feel he could be the next one to make that next step.
“He has good attributes, good height and is well balanced in both feet. Again, like all of them physically he needs to develop a bit. They have youth on their side so that will come, but we are very pleased with their football intelligence.”
Shaw, of course, has been the one youngster who has caught the eye, scoring on his debut in the Betfred Cup semi-final against Celtic and then repeating the feat as Hibs held the Hoops to a 2-2 draw at Easter Road.
Lennon is delighted not only with his progress, but that of the others. He said: “There’s a structure there for young players and Oli has taken that path. We hope for more of the same in the second half of the season.
“It’s great, really healthy and important for a club like Hibs. We also have one or two bubbling away that might come through next season. To have three at that level at the moment is very good.
“We are delighted with the progress of Oli, Ryan and Fraser, but Ben has done well and he’s one we feel we can progress.
“Kevin has been around for a while. Again, he is still a bit raw but he has good attributes for a goalkeeper, good size, good shot-stopper, good personality.
“I am delighted with the addition of them to the squad.”