Hibs boss explains thinking behind Ewan Henderson loan deal - stability, gametime, intensity
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The 23-year-old has joined up with De Kustboys for the remainder of the 2023/24 campaign and could join permanently if he sufficiently impresses at the Versluys Arena. Oostende travel to face RFC Liège on Sunday and Henderson could make his debut for his loan club.
Speaking to the club’s website, sporting director Nils Vanneste said he hoped Henderson could provide the creative spark in the final third missing from Oostende’s opening two Challenger Pro League matches.
"He showed great things [at Celtic] but the big breakthrough just didn’t come,” he explained. “He is a player who can inject some creativity. With his football ability and insight, he should be able to create opportunities for his team-mates. He is the type of player we absolutely need.”
Henderson managed ten goal contributions in a Hibs shirt – five goals and five assists – in 56 games since joining on loan from Celtic during Shaun Maloney’s tenure, following a similar path to his brother a few years prior. But so far this season he has played just 19 minutes of first-team football, in the 2-1 defeat by Motherwell, having been an used substitute in three of the club’s five European games, and failing to even make the bench for the other two. His last goal involvement was the assist for Élie Youan’s winner in a 1-0 victory over St Mirren in Paisley in early February and the last time he completed a full 90 minutes was the 1-1 draw with Hearts in August last year.
"It was a bit of everything,” Johnson said, when asked by the Evening News how the move had come about. “Ewan's a talented player, there's no doubt about that. I want him to focus and I think that focus is slightly easier when you know you're going to play the games. Sometimes you can come on for 20 minutes and think you've got to be a superstar to get the start, then you get the start. But there hasn't been enough emotional stability for Ewan at Hibs in the last six months, knowing that he's going to play.
"At times he's played games, at times he's affected the games, and at times I've wanted a little bit more from him. For me, it's about Ewan having focus and intensity in his training sessions and taking that into games and allowing that ability to flourish because undoubtedly, he has a lot of ability.”
Tellingly, there were three teenaged midfielders on the bench against Aston Villa and although none of them got off the bench, Johnson has hinted that all three could be set for greater involvement this season – and Henderson’s departure may accelerate their chances.
"It was an outstanding performance by Aston Villa and that's what we've got to try to emulate,” Johnson continued. “I said to the lads, 'your idols become your rivals', and it was a good experience for them. There are boys at this club young enough to play at that level on a regular basis; the likes of Jacob MacIntyre, Reuben McAllister, and Rudi Molotnikov, and I told them that's the standard to reach.”