Hibs and Brighton partnership: Which Seagulls players could be loan options for the Easter Road side?
When Hibs and Brighton & Hove Albion announced a strategic partnership earlier this year, it was spelled out by both clubs that this wasn't just an arrangement for player swaps.
There is much more to the link-up but there is certainly a very real possibility that some of the English side’s youngsters may benefit from game time in the Scottish Premiership.
We’ve taken a look at Brighton’s fringe players and youth prospects and picked out some who might be of interest to the Easter Road side…
Matt Clarke, left-sided central defender
Regardless of whether Ryan Porteous departs Easter Road this summer, one suspects the Hibs recruitment team wil be looking to bolster the central defensive options.
Even if Porteous remains in the Capital, Jack Ross will have just three natural centre-halves at his disposal with four competitions on the go and one of them is Darren McGregor who turns 36 in August.
There are obviously players who can fill in. Paul McGinn operated as a right-sided centre-half when Ross opted for a back three, and David Gray was utilised as a central defender in the League Cup group games, but the smart money would be on reinforcements being brought in.
Matt Clarke, who turns 25 in September, joined Brighton from Portsmouth in June 2019, costing the Seagulls £3 million but he is yet to make a senior appearance for Brighton, although Graham Potter is understood to be a fan of the player. He has spent two consecutive seasons on loan at Derby but with Dan Burn, Lewis Dunk, Joel Veltman, and Adam Webster all ahead of him in the pecking order at the Amex his first-team chances look fairly bleak.
Clarke played more than 40 games for the Rams last term in both a back three and a back four and would help provide the leadership from the back that was missing at times from Hibs last season.
Haydon Roberts, left-sided central defender
Yes, another left-sided central defender. Roberts played 26 times for Rochdale last term but had returned to Brighton before the Dale were relegated after picking up a hamstring strain.
The 19-year-old, capped by England at Under-17 and Under-18 level, featured in both three- and four-man defences, so there are no doubts over his versatility.
Roberts is likely to head out on loan again next term and Hibs could be a possibility.
Ryan Longman, forward
The 20-year-old is hugely versatile, able to play as a centre-forward, on either flank, or as a No. 10 and No.8.
He scored nine goals in 51 games for loan side AFC Wimbledon last season and has already featured for Brighton’s first team in an EFL Cup match against Aston Villa.
We know from the Hibs AGM earlier this year that a striker is high up on the Easter Road transfer shopping list and Longman could be an interesting addition, although he is likely to have suitors in the English Championship with his exploits at Plough Lane not going unnoticed.
Jan Paul van Hecke, defender
Signed by Brighton on a three-year deal in the summer of 2020 from NAC Breda, Dutch defender van Hecke can play in central defence or at right-back, and at 6ft 2in would bring some height to the Hibs rearguard.
The 21-year-old spent last season on loan with Hereenveen in his homeland, playing 31 times and chipping in with one goal and one assist.
Yet to make an appearance for Brighton but could head out on loan again next term to further his development.
Reda Khadra, winger
A former Germany Under-18 cap, Khadra joined Albion from Borussia Dortmund’s youth system last year and turns 20 at the start of next month. He made his first-team bow as a late substitute in January’s 1-0 defeat by Manchester City.
Khadra registered three goals and two assists in six games for the Seagulls’ Under-23 side last term.
Primarily a left-winger, the 19-year-old can operate on the opposite flank or as a No.10. Given his fleeting involvement with the first team last season he would appear to be a likely candidate for a loan spell this season.
Romaric Yapi, right-back
Arrived in East Sussex after taking a similar route to Khadra in that he was plucked from the youth system of an overseas club – this time Paris Saint-Germain.
The Evry-born defender turned out for the French giants' Under-19 side before signing for Brighton in the summer of 2019. Yapi also turns 20 next month although he is yet to make his first-team debut; having been limited to two unused sub appearances in the EFL Cup.
Ostensibly a right-back, Yapi can also operate on the right of midfield, and played 17 times for Brighton’s Under-23s last term.
Lars Dendoncker, centre-back
Capped by Belgium at every age group between Under-15 and Under-19, Dendoncker can fill either centre-half role as well as the holding role in midfield and if his name is familiar it’s because his brother Leander plays for Wolves.
He came up through the ranks at Club Brugge before moving to England in August 2020. His contract is due to expire next summer so this season could be a chance to earn a new deal or put himself in the shop window.
At 6ft 2in he is another who would add height to the Hibs defence and after 17 appearances for Brighton Under-23s last season and two unused sub appearances for Graham Potter’s side, Dendoncker could head out on loan this term.
Will we see any of these players at Easter Road?
You’d have to ask Graeme Mathie. As pointed out, the partnership between Hibs and Brighton isn’t just a vehicle for swapping players but it’s perhaps natural to expect some movement between the two clubs on that front.
Much depends on where Hibs feel they need to strengthen and which players Brighton are happy to send out on loan – if any.
If the two clubs do go down this route, there are more than a few interesting candidates on Brighton’s books that could catch the eye.