Hibs recruitment, the 4884 model, and where club needs to strengthen in the summer
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"You have four players in the breakthrough category of 16 to 20-years-old; eight in the 20-25 age bracket – that's where your assets are; eight in their prime at 25-30, and then four in the twilight years of 30-35+,” he said. “The seniors need to be unbelievable human beings and winners, because they have to spread that through the club.”
Looking at recruitment last summer it’s clear the club focused a little too much on the ‘asset’ category, and not enough on the ‘prime’ category, although Johnson did say: “The problem with prime players is that they are the most expensive. If they're not, there's probably something wrong.”
Including loans and pre-contracts, Hibs brought in nine asset-category players, two twilights, three primes, and three breakthroughs. Come January, one twilight and one prime were added on permanent deals, and two assets were brought in on loan, while one breakthrough and eight assets were moved out either on loan, permanently, or in Ryan Schofield’s case, recalled by their parent club.
As things stand, not counting players out on loan and those ineligible to play, Hibs have a first-team squad of 27 but with players coming back from loan spells, even taking away the five loanees currently in the first team and the out-of-contract players, that number grows to around 30 and the 4884 is somewhat skewed. So how might the squad look for next season and where do Hibs need to strengthen this summer?
Goalkeepers – David Marshall, Murray Johnson
Lee Johnson has spoken highly of his teenage namesake, who has played back-up to Marshall since January, but he has made just six SPFL appearances, all for Airdrie over two loan spells, and the 18-year-old would surely benefit from a full season on loan at, say, a Championship club.
Kevin Dąbrowski’s time at the club looks all but over, Tom Carter is de facto third-choice but at the moment would be unlikely to step up as Marshall’s number two if Johnson left on loan. This could mean a goalkeeper will be sourced in the summer. Lee Johnson has already hinted that talks have taken place with free agent options so perhaps Stefan Marinovic, who Johnson signed for Bristol City and is currently without a club, might be an option. 1 x breakthrough, 1 x twilight
Defenders – Chris Cadden, Lewis Miller, Paul Hanlon, Rocky Bushiri, Marijan Čabraja, Lewis Stevenson, Oscar MacIntyre, Kanayo Megwa, Jacob Blaney
Will Chris Cadden be used as a defender next season? He has been operating as a right-winger recently but the return of Martin Boyle may throw that into question although he can cover several positions.
Lewis Stevensonisout of contract this summer but is already in talks about extending his stay, while Johnson has also hinted Oscar MacIntyre might have a more prominent first-team role next season. With Darren McGregor out of contract and his first-team involvement seemingly already over, plus uncertainty over the futures of CJ Egan-Riley and Will Fish as well as Mikey Devlin, whose short-term deal expires in the summer, centre-back reinforcements are a matter of urgency. Hibs could explore another season-long loan deal for Fish, depending on what player and parent club Manchester United say, while there might be discussions to be had with Burnley over Egan-Riley given the Clarets’ swift return to the English Premier League and how he might fit into their plans. 3 x breakthrough, 2 x asset, 2 x prime,2 x twilight
Midfielders – Josh Campbell, Allan Delferrière, Jake Doyle-Hayes, Robbie Hamilton, Ewan Henderson, Jimmy Jeggo, Nohan Kenneh, Kyle Magennis, Joe Newell
Hibs are well stocked in midfield with nine options including Allan Delferrière and Robbie Hamilton. Doyle-Hayes and Magennis have spent lengthy periods on the sidelines this season, and it is perhaps little surprise that Hibs remain interested in Swindon Town’s Jonny Williams, who is out of contract in the summer and could add something different in the middle of the park and final third, as well as increasing the numbers in the prime category. 2 x breakthrough, 5 x asset, 1 x prime, 1 x twilight
Attackers – Martin Boyle, Christian Doidge, Harry McKirdy, Elias Melkersen, Kevin Nisbet, Jair Tavares
Given uncertainty over Nisbet’s future and possibly that of Christian Doidge, given he was loaned to Kilmarnock this season, Hibs look light in attack for next season. McGeady may get a new deal which would give Hibs another body in the wide areas but not solve issues at centre-forward.
There is an option to buy Élie Youan permanently and the club have already started exploring that one. A second loan spell for Mykola Kukharevych might be possible depending on what happens to relegation-threatened parent club Troyes. One thing is clear: Hibs need centre-forwards, and they need them badly.
2 x asset, 3 x prime, 1 x twilight
There are questions over out-of-contract players such as Murray Aiken, Ethan Laidlaw, and Josh O’Connor while the futures of Dan Mackay and Dylan Tait are also uncertain. Both have deals until summer 2025 but spent the season on loan in the Championship. A lot depends on whether Hibs qualify for Europe, or whether they are preparing for first-stage entry to the Viaplay Cup. There should be a Director of Football in place by then and that will surely have an impact. As things stand, next seasons’ base squad is made up of six breakthroughs, nine assets, six primes, and five twilights, or 6965. Hibs badly need reinforcements – a goalkeeper, two centre-backs, and a couple of centre-forwards as the absolute minimum – but the same issues around prime players exist for the time being. It also depends on whether those straddling two categories e.g. Martin Boyle, having just turned 30, could be either a prime or a twilight while Elias Melkersen could fit breakthrough or asset – but there may be some key decisions needing made regardless of whether Hibs want to stick rigidly to the 4884 structure.