‘A new wave of young talent’ - Hibs great predicts more call-ups

Whittaker promotion just the start, says McGregor
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Scottish Cup hero Darren McGregor believes Hibs have a new production line of young talent just waiting to burst into the first team.

And he says the example set by Rory Whittaker, the youngest debutant in club history, should act as an inspiration to kids fighting for their big chance.

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McGregor’s transition to coaching took a step up when he was handed control of the under-18s at East Mains this season.

The former centre-half, a key player as Hibs shattered one of the most enduring curses in sport by lifting the Scottish Cup at Hampden in 2016, says new gaffer Nick Montgomery’s willingness to promote youth represents a brilliant opportunity for aspiring pros.

Revealing that a number of his squad are already training with Monty’s men on a regular basis, McGregor pointed to the example of 16-year-old Whittaker - rewarded with a three-year contract after being plucked from obscurity by the gaffer – as an example to follow.

He said: “I tell the younger lads: ‘That should be your motivation, knowing that you’re so close to getting into that first team.’

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“The gaffer believes that, if you can show promise and deal with the physicality, you’re in. It doesn’t matter what age you are; you could be 15.

“Some of the lads we’ve got in the 18s team are really developed and physically ready.

“So I wouldn’t surprise me if you saw one or two others jump up to the first team in the next six months, because a lot of them are training with the first team pretty regularly now.

“The gaffer likes big numbers for his sessions so it’s a great opportunity for them to impress.

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“Rory is a first-year under-18s player so technically we should have him for two years.

“But that’s him, he’s gone now. He’ll never play 18s again. And he’s only been in the 18s system for two or three months.

“Everybody has a hand in that – but ultimately, it’s Rory who has done it himself.”

Revealing some of the back story behind Whittaker’s meteoric rise, McGregor – pulling his boots back on for David Gray’s testimonial at Easter Road this weekend - admitted: “It’s amazing how football can change.

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“The gaffer comes and sees him play Rangers at Murray Park, watches him for 40 minutes on the Friday and thinks: ‘Right, there’s something there.’

“He took him into training on the Monday, when you need bodies because there’s usually a recovery group who have played.

“Rory did really well and the manager thought: ‘Great, I’ll keep him for a second day.’

“Before you know it, the gaffer tells us: ‘Right, he’s a first team player now.’

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“Getting some of the younger lads into the first team has been amazing. That’s why we’re here.”

David Gray’s Testimonial sees a Hibs XI take on a Manchester Utd XI on Sunday 15th October at Easter Rd with a 2 pm kick off. Tickets & limited Hospitality packages are available athttps://www.eticketing.co.uk/hibernianfc/Events

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