Eddie May: I don’t want to produce average Hibees

Eddie May has set the bar high in terms of what calibre of player he develops at Hibs' East Mains training complex. He played for Hibs in the 80s, below
Eddie May has set the bar high in terms of what calibre of player he develops at Hibs' East Mains training complex. He played for Hibs in the 80s, below
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Eddie May knows all about derby day excitement and, like every Hibs fan, he is looking forward to Sunday.

However, the Easter Road outfit’s new Academy Coaching Manager won’t go anywhere near Tynecastle, as the big matches for him are taking place elsewhere.

Rather than heading for Gorgie, his day will start at Hibs’ East Mains training centre at 11am, where the club’s Under-15 and 17 sides will be playing, before he makes a dash to Paisley to take in the Under-14s match.

Of course, the 46-year-old will take a keen interest in the outcome of the match against Hearts, but, he insists his job isn’t to be sitting in the stand cheering on Alan Stubbs’ side, but to develop the players who hopefully will be out their on the pitch themselves in years to come.

May has fond memories of such occasions, having himself been a product of Hibs’ youth system, making his debut only a few days after his 18th birthday, one of a number of youngsters who broke through at that time including John Collins, Paul Kane, Mickey Weir, Gordon Hunter, Callum Milne and Kevin McKee.

He said: “The derby is a fantastic game to play in. I was fortunate enough to score a couple of times in wins against Hearts. Great memories – Hibs fans always remind you of them. Being brought up in Edinburgh a Hibs supporter, it was great for me as a young boy to go and score in a winning team in a derby.”

While May will be either elated or deflated by the outcome of Sunday’s clash, his eyes are focused on the long-term rather than the immediate fall-out, displaying a steely determination to ensure the kids of tomorrow have the same opportunity to play first team football as he did almost 30 years ago.

He stresses that talent alone won’t be enough, adamant that any youngster hoping to don a green shirt will require to show a dedication to meet the exacting standards he’ll be setting, not only for them, but himself and his coaches.

Spotting those with the greatest potential will be the first port of call, the appointment of Graeme Mathie as Head of Player Identification and Recruitment as part of chief executive Leeann Dempster’s overhaul of the club which has seen significant changes behind the scenes further strengthening the football department.

And to that end, May wants to see more local boys drawn towards East Mains than anywhere else.

He said: “I’m from Edinburgh, I’m proud to be from Edinburgh and the biggest challenge for me is do we have enough young guys coming from Edinburgh?

“Probably the answer is no. Too many people are going on buses through to Murray Park or Lennoxtown. So first and foremost we have to try to tie up the best we can from this region.”

May’s remit of overseeing all Academy technical coaching including the “Transition Academy” with Spartans will form part of that plan, but he also see closer links with boys clubs, while not ignoring those youngsters already with Hibs, adamant the club owes each of those who comes through the doors to be the very best they can be, whether or not they make the grade at Easter Road.

He insisted, though, that standards will be high. Recalling his own early days, he said: “We have to produce a certain type of player. If they cannot control it and pass it and have the hunger to go and be a professional football player, they cannot be here.

“It’s a high standard, not just someone who plays ten first team games and leaves, but someone who becomes a first-team regular. This is a big football club – I don’t want to produce average players.”

But while the demands will be high both of the youngsters and their coaches, May admitted no-one will be under greater pressure than himself, conscious of the fact that head coach Alan Stubbs, having been in charge of an Everton youth set-up which has produced players such as Ross Barkley, John Stones, Luke Garbutt and Seamus Coleman in recent years, will be looking for results.

May, though, has confidence that he has what it takes, having been hand-picked for the position given an impressive CV including academy director at Falkirk, high performance coach at the University of Stirling and as a youth coach at Rangers.

In addition, he was once boss of the Bairns but, he revealed, he doesn’t hanker after a return to frontline management, confident that his forte is in youth coaching.

He said: “I’ll never be a first team manager again. You know your strengths and weaknesses. This is what I do and what I have been successful at. The manager along with other people were at Everton and know what an Academy is about.

“I am quite happy to put myself under that pressure and I’m sure I will show I am good enough to do the job. If I am not, then I won’t hang about. No-one will need to tell me if I am good enough or not. I knew it when I was a first team manager. I wasn’t good enough so it was ‘go’ – simple as that.

“I had a very good reputation before it. I’ve built that back up again. I make decisions, tough decisions, but I do it for the right reasons. I won’t sit on the fence – it’s black or white. I am confident in my decision making – I make the decisions that are right for the football club. Some people will agree, some won’t, but I am strong enough a character to say that’s what I really believe in.

“I am at a big football club. I do not want to produce average players, so I am definitely under pressure, but I’ll put myself under that pressure.”

May concedes his is a job which requires patience, his remit being to oversee the development of Academy players through from the Under-8s to the Under-17s, but he believes the rewards can be huge.

He said: “It’s a process which can sometimes be a bit frustrating for people, but we had success at Falkirk with the number of guys that came through. People might say it’s only Falkirk, but when I left we had 25 international players, which was testament to the coaching staff and infrastructure that was put in.

“From zero to 25 in five years is big news. Players have gone on to the English Premier League and I think in terms of transfers it’s touching £3 million, which is a lot of money for Falkirk. The best players are still there, in my opinion, but are just taking that little longer to develop.”

May, who intends to travel the length and breadth of the country taking in Hibs under-age teams in action, was also at pains to stress his arrival hadn’t been at the expense of Under-20 coach James McDonaugh, who was this week appointed first team coach at Falkirk.

Revealing Stubbs will be naming McDonaugh’s replacement, he said: “James made a professional decision. He had a job here taking the Under-20s. A new Under-20 coach will come in – that’s not in my job description.

“I’m in the fortunate position of being able to work with the football club I left 25 years ago. The decision has been made that a change of direction is needed and I’m delighted that I’m back. I do so as a far better coach than I was at Falkirk. I’m better equipped and now I’m back, I’m not going to rush out the door.

“I want to be here for a very, very long time, but the only thing that will decide that is whether I have done a good job or not.”