Jack Ross explains why he will keeping giving Hibs Under-18s first-team exposure
Hibs will continue to give under-18 players exposure to club’s first-team environment after manager Jack Ross admitted the last year has been particularly tough for them.
Young forward Ethan Laidlaw 16, was listed as a substitute for Hibs’ 2-1 defeat at Ibrox last weekend, while fellow U-18 central defender/midfielder Jacob Blaney has been training with the senior team. Both will travel with the squad to Stair Park on Sunday for the Hibees’ Scottish Cup clash with Stranraer. Young striker Josh O’Connor, son of former Hibs favourite Garry, has also trained with the first team in recent weeks, while goalkeeper Murray Johnson was frequently involved in training and match days earlier this season.
Under-18 football has been severely affected by coronavirus lockdown restrictions, with matches only just beginning again, and Ross feels it is important to keep spirits up and provide valuable insight into what it takes to be part of the full squad.
"It's been a really difficult season for that age group, the under-18s, because they've had long spells when they've not been at the club,” said Ross. “They've had long spells of inactivity because of what's gone on in the last year and when they have been back, they've not really had the games programme. So it's been a really challenging period for those young players mentally.
"They are getting back to games now but the nature of our squad, it meant we had an opportunity to include one of them on Sunday and Ethan is somebody who, at 16, has made good progress. From a psychological point of view, giving him an insight into first-team football is beneficial. He still has a huge way to go before he'll be in and around our group on a regular basis, but I think for those younger players – Jacob Blaney has trained with us over the last few weeks – is partly to assist us but also to hopefully help them out. It's been tough for them.
"Both Ethan and Jacob travel with us on Sunday and I think it's a brilliant experience for them to be in and around the first team in such a big game.”