Hibs starlet Jamie Gullan told to maximise extra time

Young players can expect promotion as clubs tighten belts but only if they make the most of coronavirus lay-off, says Easter Road boss

By Moira Gordon
Thursday, 14th May 2020, 7:30 am
Hibernian’s Jamie Gullan. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Hibernian’s Jamie Gullan. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

Jamie Gullan was denied the run in to the season he had been looking forward to – but his Hibs manager Jack Ross is hoping the past couple of months have not gone to waste.

Furloughed and forced to keep himself ticking over without the trappings of the East Mains training centre, the in-form 20-year-old must be cursing his luck that he has been denied greater opportunity to prove himself on the pitch this season.

His manager feels his pain but has warned that a sensible approach should see him return to the fold when play resumes, with more youngsters expected to be given the nod next term as budgets are tightened and large first team squads become a luxury few can afford.

“It was a shame for him because his progression had been brilliant and he was in a good place, in terms of his form and mentally as well,” said Ross of Gullan.

“But, the one thing that this has allowed players is the time period they can use to enhance their fitness levels and work on changing their body shape because they don’t normally get this amount of time to do that. It also allows them time for some reflection and, again, you don’t normally get that because it is so full on and then holiday time needs to be a complete switch off to allow you to recharge.

“For some of these guys and particularly for guys like Jamie who has stepped up, they should have used this time to reflect on where they were a year ago or 18 months ago and where they are now. They need to look at how that has happened and if someone like Jamie can understand why that has happened then he can keep doing that and that will keep him in a good position.”

There has also been tactical advice to mull over and digest, and footage they can tap into to improve their positional sense, as well as statistics and past performances to analyse.

And while Ross has signing targets he wants the club to chase when they receive an indication that play will recommence, he says he expects to see many more youngsters elevated to first teams throughout the various leagues, as everyone adapts to the financial hangover of the coronavirus crisis.

“Often and with the best will in the world, young players tend to get their opportunities through circumstance. It is usually during more difficult times than more positive times. That‘s natural, whether that’s a club struggling with form - I had young players at St Mirren who were given the opportunity because we were bottom of the league, and we had tried a lot of other things that hadn’t worked - or through unfortunate injuries to more experienced players.”

But having made a point of promoting youth in the past and now ensconced at a club with a rich heritage of grow-their-own-stars, Ross is keen to hone the abilities of youngsters who have come all the way through the ranks or those who were brought in later but have been improved by the development staff.

The list of success stories is long. There are those who once shone at Easter Road, who have moved on and continued to prosper, such as Scott Brown, Kenny Miller, Kevin Thomson, Garry O’Connor, Steven Fletcher. There are also others still performing pivotal roles in green and white. Paul Hanlon and Lewis Stevenson’s long and loyal service has earned them testimonials, while Ryan Porteous, Gullan, Fraser Murray and others such as Josh Campbell - who has also tucked first team experience in the Championship under his belt this term with Arbroath - hope to continue the conveyor belt and give Ross some viable first team options.

“The current circumstances are unfortunate and it could well be that clubs will recruit less and have less to spend on players and they may well rely more on younger players,” said the Hibs gaffer. “But, irrespective of that, I’m certainly conscious that I want to promote more of our young players and involve them more at first team level. The club, traditionally, has a good reputation and good history for doing that but I don’t think we have done that as much over the past couple of years as we have done previously, certainly the stats back that up.

“But, the more bloated you make the first-team squad in terms of senior players, then the more difficult it is for young players as well. We have to be wary of the numbers we carry in our first team squad and make sure we don’t block that pathway because we do have some good young players at the club, the ones who have already been around the first team and then some more down below that. It may well be that the current circumstances will mean greater opportunities for these young players.”