Why Hibs loaning Sean Mackie to Dundee makes sense for all parties
Patrick McPartlin looks at why Sean Mackie’s loan switch to Dundee is a sensible deal for all parties
Hibs had a quiet transfer deadline day. One player arrived at Easter Road - Jason Naismith joining on a season-long loan from Peterborough - and one player in Sean Mackie departed, moving to Dundee on a similar deal.
Mackie's loan came as something of a surprise. He has played 15 times for Hibs since returning to the club in early 2016, registering two assists - in a 2-0 win over Celtic and a 1-1 draw at Rangers.
Still just 20, Mackie has time on his side, but with the reliable Lewis Stevenson now fit again following an injury lay-off over the summer, his opportunities for regular game-time could be limited this season.
Dundee are eyeing a swift return to the top flight after relegation to the Championship last season and although they currently sit sixth, they have already faced Dunfermline, Dundee United, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Ayr, who are all likely to be competing for the play-off places in the second tier. Their performance against Aberdeen in the Betfred Cup, where they lost 2-1 after extra-time, indicates that there's lots of potential in the Dens Park side.
Why have Hibs let him leave on loan?
Many Hibs fans were vocal in their opposition to the move, with some questioning the club's decision to let a natural left-back leave and reduce the options in reserve should Stevenson suffer a further injury to the calf tear that ruled him out during the summer. However, the Easter Road side can call on Tom James - who was deployed at left-back during some Betfred Cup matches - and Steven Whittaker should they need cover for the long-serving full-back.
The Hibs hierarchy made it clear at the start of the season that they would seek loans for their promising youngsters. Jamie Gullan has hit the ground running at Raith Rovers, scoring two in two games, while Jack Hodge and Callum Yeats are impressing at Civil Service Strollers. Polish goalkeeper Kevin Dabrowski has helped Cowdenbeath to third in League Two so far.
While Mackie is arguably further forward in his career than those on the aforementioned loans, a season of regular first-team football could do wonders for his confidence and for his development.
After a less than rosy start to the league campaign, head coach Paul Heckingbottom will need to rely on experienced heads and consistent performers to get the season back on track and it would appear the best option for Mackie - who is very much a confidence player - is to head out on loan, where there is less pressure on him from the coaching staff and perhaps less expectation from the fans.
Why is Dundee a good move for Mackie?
In stepping down a division to join Dundee, Mackie is part of a club targeting promotion, or at the very least a play-off place. The Dark Blues will be looking to win as many games as possible and have so far held their own against prospective play-off rivals in Dunfermline, Ayr and Inverness.
Barring a spectacular collapse, the Dee are not going to be battling relegation and scrapping for points here and there, but the Championship is a tricky division, with seasoned players and youngsters eager to catch the eye providing tough opposition.
Mackie's performances for the Hibs first team have reflected his displays for the development squad - strong going forward with an eye for a pass and a powerful shot from distance, but prone to the odd defensive lapse and touch of rashness, which should be stamped out with experience. Dens Park manager James McPake isn't the worst defensive role model for a young player.
Dundee’s usual partnership on the left has been Jordan Marshall at left-back with naturally right-sided midfielder Declan McDaid ahead of him, although Marshall did play further forward in the 2-2 draw with Dunfermline in the opening game of the season as McPake lined his side up in a 3-4-1-2 formation.
Mackie's arrival could allow McPake to return McDaid to his favoured side while maintaining the same system, while the Hibs youngster's versatility - he can operate at left-back, left wing-back or left midfield - makes him an attractive option on the left side. Regardless of where Mackie is played in the Dundee side, regular game-time in a competitive league will only help improve his game.
What will the player get out of the loan?
Working under McPake and alongside players such as Jordan McGhee, Josh Meekings and Jordon Forster should bring on the defensive aspect of Mackie's game, which still needs a bit of fine-tuning.
He will relish the chance to get regular minutes in a different environment and it should help his development to work under a manager who is looking to make a name for himself and knows all about the high expectations and standards at Easter Road.
In essence, this is a fresh start for Mackie. He is on the fringes of the Scotland Under-21 squad and a string of consistent performances will keep him on manager Scot Gemmill's radar. He will no doubt return to Easter Road at the end of the loan spell having developed as a player and, best case scenario, emerging as a serious contender for a starting berth - or at least a more regular spot in the matchday squad next season.
Stevenson is currently blocking Mackie's path to the first team - as he has done to so many other young left-backs at Easter Road - and while he likely has a good few years left in the tank, age catches us all in the end.
While Stevenson is likely to continue as one of the first names on Heckingbottom's team-sheet this season, Mackie's long-term aim should be making that left-back berth his own.
He has a big season ahead of him, but making the decision to go out on loan in the first place indicates a willingness to better himself and kick on. Both clubs, as well as the player, will only benefit from that.