Kanayo Megwa shares Hibs first-team dream as defender speaks on moving to Scotland, Paul McGinn inspiration, and his football upbringing

Hibs Under-18s defender Kanayo Megwa has revealed his desire to emulate his team-mates Jacob Blaney and Oscar MacIntyre by earning his place in an Easter Road first-team squad.

The 17-year-old signed his first professional contract with the club in the summer of 2021 after impressing on trial and since than has been a virtual ever-present for Gareth Evans’ side, who are unbeaten in all competitions since the start of the year – but his main aim is to break into the Capital club’s senior squad.

Kanayo, who first caught Hibs' eye during an open trial in England, spoke to Hibs’ new magazine HQ about his first six months or so in Edinburgh.

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First contract, and first time in Scotland

Kanayo Megwa pictured in action against Dunbar United during a pre-season friendly. Picture: Maurice Dougan

“Signing my professional deal was really exciting for me and my whole family. I have never been offered a contract before, so it was a new thing for us all. We had been looking forward to that moment for a long time, so we were all relieved when the first professional contract came through.

“The people at the club have all been very friendly and welcoming. It’s my first time in Scotland but the coaches were all very accepting of me, which made the whole trial experience a lot easier.

“Eddie May and Gareth Evans, in particular, were really good with me and very helpful.”

Similarities between Scotland and Nigeria

Oscar MacIntyre was named in the first-team squad for the recent Scottish Premiership win against Ross County - and Kanayo is targeting the same achievement

Born in London to Nigerian parents, Kanayo admits he didn't know much about Scottish football before joining Hibs but feels there are similarities between Scotland and Nigeria.

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"I am really liking living in Scotland. The weather is a big change but it is actually similar to Nigeria in a sense, because the people are all so friendly and welcoming. So it didn’t take long to get used to living here.

“I am loving it at Hibs – everyone at the club is so hard-working: the players, the first-team squad, and the rest of the staff – the workrate and mindset are brilliant.

"It is inspirational to see everyone working together as one big team.”

Hibs Under-18s line up before the Scottish Youth Cup win against Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale. Picture: Maurice Dougan
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Chelsea, Spurs, Dubai, Watford, West Brom…?

As with many youngsters trying to make their way in the world of football, it has not been straightforward for Kanayo. In his younger years, Chelsea and Tottenham were keeping an eye on his progress before he moved to Dubai at the start of the 2010s.

When he returned to England he received a scholarship to the private Brooke House College academy, where he continued his studies alongside his football and attracted interest from a string of clubs in England including Watford and West Bromwich Albion.

Then Hibs came calling.

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Kanayo's under-18 team-mate and fellow defender Jacob Blaney was named in Shaun Maloney's first-team squad against Ross County

“I am an only child, so my dad introduced me to football when I was younger. He made me really like football and has always helped me find clubs, and helped me develop as a person.

“At first, when previous trials didn’t go to plan at other clubs, I was very disappointed, but my dad motivated me to keep trying and taught me never to give up.

“Luckily Hibs came in soon after that, so it was a great confidence booster for me.”

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From trial spell to 18s regular

Kanayo arrived in the Capital in the summer, playing as a trialist in friendly matches against Civil Service Strollers and Dunbar United. Hibs scouts were aware of his potential after watching him in an open session in Leicester and secured him a one-month trial period.

His competitive debut for the 18s came in a goalless draw against Celtic and since then the versatile defender has featured at full-back, wing-back, and centre-back.

Kanayo Megwa in action for Hibs Under-18s against Hearts Under-18s at the Oriam. Picture: Maurice Dougan
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“My debut was a proud moment for me as it was probably the highest level of football I have played in my life. It was a 0-0 draw, but the coaches were happy with my performance and it was a great start to the season.

“The rest of performances have been good this season, we are unbeaten in the league so far and playing well.”

First-team training, looking up to McGinn, and 2022 targets

Like many of his team-mates in the under-18s, Kanayo has sampled training with the first team at East Mains; a glimpse into what the future may hold if he continues working hard.

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“I have had a few training sessions with the first team. You get to see the tempo that these guys work at, and how everything is different compared to development-level football.

"It is a great insight for us young boys as it shows us the level we need to be at to break through into the first team. It has been a very helpful experience.”

For a player who can operate at both centre-back and right-back, there is one senior player Kanayo studies more than the others.

“I probably look up to Paul McGinn the most. He plays my position so I watch a lot of him – the coaches have told me to watch what he does because I can learn a lot from him. Paul is a really good player and I look up to him a lot.”

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Having established himself in the under-18s side, who are in the running for a league and cup double this term, and experienced training with the first team, Kanayo is eyeing further progress in green and white.

“Shaun Maloney came in and spoke to us all as a group when he first arrived. He told us his vision for the club, and how he will use the youth set-up so it was great to hear from him.

“My ambition is to break into the first team, sign a contract extension and then start playing regular first-team football.”

A version of this article appeared in HQ, Hibs’ new quarterly magazine, available only from the Hibs club shop or online>>>