Analysis: International bosses taking note of Hibs’ success

Dylan McGeouch
Dylan McGeouch
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In those dark and not so distant days of relegation, few would have envisaged the remarkable transformation which has taken place at Easter Road, a historic Scottish Cup triumph followed by, eventually, promotion and a memorable return to the Ladbrokes Premiership.

But, perhaps, nothing more reflects the renewed optimism which abounds than the somewhat startling revelation that in their first season back in the top flight of Scottish football Hibs fielded no fewer than 12 full internationalists at one stage or another.

Jamie Maclaren

Jamie Maclaren

There were plenty of Scots – as you’d imagine – but Israel, Nigeria, Lithuania, Australia, the Republic of Ireland and Morocco were all also represented by those who pulled on the green and white.

To spare you racking your brains here they are: Steven Whittaker, John McGinn, Dylan McGeouch, Lewis Stevenson, Cammy Bell, Ofir Marciano, Efe Ambrose, Vykintas Slivka, Deivydas Matulevicius, Jamie Maclaren, Anthony Stokes and Faycal Rherras.

Former Hibs captain Pat Stanton rubbed shoulders with plenty of internationalists during his time with the club, players such as John Brownlie, Alex Cropley, Arthur Duncan, Jim Herriott and John Blackley but, he admitted, he can’t recall a time when so many had turned out for the Edinburgh club in the same season.

And, he insisted, boasting such a number can only help current boss Neil Lennon bring further quality signings as he seeks to both build on that fourth place finish and see Hibs make progress in the Europa League.

“You don’t have to go back too many years,” he admitted. “And there were players at Easter Road who, quite frankly, shouldn’t have been there because they were not good enough.

“But to have had so many who’ve regularly played international football in the one place at the one time shows somebody is doing something right.

“It’s really terrific and can only lift the profile of the club, not only here but in those other countries, which is good.

“When it comes to attracting new signings I’d imagine they’ll look at that sort of thing and realise that if you are doing well at Hibs then there’s the chance the same thing might happen for you.”

Midfielder McGinn has already established himself as a Scotland regular, but in the past couple of weeks both Stevenson, pictured below, and McGeouch have won their first caps, while striker Jamie Maclaren’s dream of being part of Australia’s squad at this month’s World Cup finals in Russia has been realised. “And deservedly so,” said Stanton of all three. “They’ve been showing good form and have been rewarded for it. Maclaren saw coming to Hibs as a chance to force his way into Australia’s squad and he has done so, again something that will be noticed by others.

“But these things don’t just happen, there’s a lot of hard work that goes into it and they’re deservedly seeing the rewards of all of that.

“I was delighted to see Stevenson capped at last. It’s terrific for him, I think he has been as good as anyone for a while and he wasn’t being picked when maybe he should have been. It’s better late than never, I just hope he goes on to win a few more caps.”

The patience shown by Stevenson, Hibs’ longest-serving player, to earn his first cap at the age of 30 is something Stanton believes should also pay off for Paul Hanlon, the defender called up but not used in Scotland’s friendly against the Netherlands in November and overlooked by new head coach Alex McLeish for the games in Peru and Mexico in which Stevenson and McGeouch made their international debuts.

He said: “All Paul can do is keep at it, to keep showing the same sort of form he was in during last season and which got him into a squad.”

Hibs’ international roots, though, go much deeper than the first team with Ryan Porteous, captain of the squad which won the SPFL Development League title and the SFA Youth Cup, playing in all four games as Scotland’s Under-21 side made the semi-finals of the prestigious Toulon Tournament in the south of France while the teenage defender has been a regular member of the Scots’ Under-19 set-up as have striker Oli Shaw and midfielder Fraser Murray while further down the line the highly-rated Kane O’Connor has been skipper of the nation’s Under-17 team.

Stanton said: “It’s great to see that it’s not just the first team, but that it’s backed up by having youngsters regularly playing international football at the different levels.

“Again, it shows that at Easter Road players will be given their chance with the likes of Porteous, Shaw and Murray all involved with the first team at one point or another during the season.

“It’s up to youngsters to take their chance and, if they put in the hard work the guys in the first team have to win caps for their various countries, then, who knows, the opportunity to play full international football may come their way.”