Hibs boss delivers verdict on record breaking debutant
Nick Montgomery believes Hibs record breaker Rory Whittaker becoming the youngest debutant in club history demonstrates the opportunities available to Easter Road prospects.
And he says the example should inspire the most talented youngsters in the East of Scotland to sign for the capital club.
Whittaker, aged just 16 years and 44 days, came off the bench for the closing 20 minutes as Hibs marked new boss Montgomery’s first home game with a 2-0 win over St Johnstone.
Asked if the right back’s promotion from under-18s to first team sent a positive message to kids in the Hibs academy, Montgomery said: “Young players at the football club - and young players in and around the area who maybe choose a different club over coming to Hibs.
“Today was an opportunity to show there’s a pathway into the first team and Rory more than deserved his chance.
“I saw him play against Rangers (under-18s) last week and was very impressed with him.
“And when he trained with the first team his attitude was spot on.
“He’s a local boy, he’s been in the academy a long time and there is no better feeling than giving a young lad like him his debut.
“But more than that he deserved it. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have got it.
“I thought he took his opportunity with both hands.
“He’s not a winger, he’s a full back, but we have had a lack of wide players.
“I was going to put Lewis Miller further up the field but he was defending those diagonal balls to the back post really well.
“So it was an opportunity to put him on and take a little bit of pressure off him defensively.
“I thought he worked his socks off and I am really proud of him.”
Explaining how excited he was when a chance fell to Whittaker late on, only for Dimitar Mitov to make a fine save, the gaffer added: “It could have been one of those moments for young Rory. If he had scored his first goal the roof would have come off Easter Road.
“I’m really happy for him making his debut, that’s one of the many positives of the last few weeks.
“I’m really happy with the overall performance. In the first half we were a little bit nervy, the crowd at times wanted the boys to go forward at every opportunity.
“I thought we showed some good composure and created some very good chances.
“Second half we showed composure in terms of our build up and created a lot of opportunities.
“We made 20 chances and, if we do that every week with the quality we have in the team, hopefully we can score more goals.
“The clean sheet was really important. David Marshall has had two shots and made two saves - but one was a really big save.
“That’s why he’s massively important to the club, he’s an experienced goalkeeper.
“It’s a well-deserved win and we move on to Wednesday night.”
Montgomery said the atmosphere at Easter Road, with almost 17,000 in attendance for a game that saw Hibs leap over Hearts to move into fifth in the Scottish Premiership, had surpassed his expectations.
“The fans were amazing,” said the Englishman. “They gave me a really good reception before the game.
“And the energy they created in the second half resulted in a lot of opportunities.
“We know the pace we have up front and teams are going to come and work hard against us and that’s what happened.
“But as the game got stretched we created a lot of opportunities on the counter attack.”