Big Hibs interview: Jack Brydon on first-team hopes, SPFL loan spells, and working with Hanlon, Porteous, and McGregor

There aren’t many 17-year-olds who can say they have been a first-team regular at an SPFL team, but Hibs defender Jack Brydon has managed it.

The boyhood Hibee, now 18, put in performances for Stenhousemuir on loan during the 2020/21 campaign that left the Ochilview fanbase wanting more, and followed it up this season just past with successful spells at Lowland League side Civil Service Strollers and Edinburgh City, the latter winning promotion to League One via the play-offs.

But we should rewind to this time last year to unpack a whirlwind 12 months for Brydon.

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"There were a lot of ups and a few downs last season but overall it was more positive than negative,” he tells the Evening News in an exclusive interview.

"I’d been training with the first team towards the end of the 2020/21 season, leading up to the cup final. I think the gaffer [Jack Ross] just liked me and going into the new season, it felt a bit like they wanted to see how I’d cope with the first team.

"Most of my discussions were with John Potter, he gave me an insight into what was going on and told me I was going to Manchester with them for the pre-season training camp.

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"I got on really well with Jack Ross and he had me in the squad for the European games, but then I was out, and I was just looking for gametime."

Frustratingly for the centre-back, timings of loan windows prevented him from joining an SPFL side but he returned to Christie Gillies Park until January to work with Gary Jardine in a bid to get minutes.

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Jack Brydon in action for Hibs' B team against Huddersfield

When his loan was up, there had been a managerial change at Easter Road.

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"When Shaun Maloney came in I had a few chances to impress in training and in the B-team games I felt I gave a good account of myself but I think he understandably wanted to focus on the first team. Some things just don’t go the way you want them to,” Brydon continues.

The teen headed out on loan again, making the short trip to Ainslie Park and League Two side Edinburgh City and although injury curtailed his campaign he did play a part in helping them to promotion, scoring twice in ten appearances en route to the play-offs before his season came full circle.

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“I met some great people there and the manager at the time, Gary Naysmith, gave me a really good insight into dealing with new people. There are some really experienced players there too who helped me and I feel like my performances for City were the best in my career so far,” Brydon adds.

Brydon, second from right in the front row, celebrates Civil Service Strollers' Scottish Cup victory over Cowdenbeath last season. Picture: Civil Service Strollers
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"It was short-lived because of the injury but we got promotion, and then the manager changed at Hibs again. I came back – and I’ve got a really good relationship with Eddie May and David Gray – and they brought me back into first-team training again.”

Brydon is the epitome of dedicated – staying behind at HTC to work with Paul Hanlon and Darren McGregor on his defensive skills, doing extra where possible, and eager to improve all the time. Regardless of where he’s playing, he is always striving to be better.

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"The loan spells were with part-time clubs so I could still go into HTC and train, and latterly I was going over my City games with Eddie May [Loans Manager] and Dom Howe [Head of Academy Performance Analysis] to see what I could improve on,” he explains.

"They were speaking to the manager at the time to get an understanding of what he was looking for in a centre-back, and they were telling me so I could go into games with a view to impressing him. But it really helped my progress having that first-team exposure, but also being in at HTC.”

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With Josh Doig during a first-team training session at East Mains in May

In Hanlon and McGregor, Brydon has two very experienced team-mates who share his position and love for the club and can provide him with advice and guidance, while it has also been beneficial training and working alongside Ryan Porteous, who also had a loan spell at Edinburgh City earlier in his career.

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"It’s about building relationships with them,” Brydon says. “When I first went in I was a bit in awe of them because they’re my heroes, but as I got more into it and was training with them and watching them every day, I got more comfortable.

"I speak to Daz a lot, he’s been amazing with me. He’s helped me a lot, tells me how it is and what he thinks is best for me, and it’s the same with Paul and Ryan; they’re really good people to have around and they know that they’ve been through what I’m going through at the moment so it’s relatable and gives me peace of mind in that I can look at where they are now, knowing that they’ve been where I am and gone through what I’m going through.

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"One day I can hopefully get to where they are.”

Speaking of which, what might this season have in store for Brydon with another new manager?

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"I do believe there’s no substitute for going out on loan but I’m open to playing games and if that means playing for the development squad and playing more than I normally would in an average season then I’d be happy with that. It’s only going to benefit me,” he states.

Brydon was called into the first-team squad by Jack Ross towards the end of the 2020/21 campaign
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“There’s obviously a difference between the English game and the Scottish game. In Scotland I think you’re playing more in the air but playing against teams from England, you’re seeing both sides. When I go out on loan it’s often a physical battle but having played a couple of under-23 sides from England, it’s more technical and you need to think a bit more, and you’re facing players who might have a different approach.

"I’m looking forward to this season so I can kick on. I just want to improve myself as much as possible in all aspects of my game.”

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Brydon with former Hibs forward and Edinburgh City team-mate last year Danny Handling