Lee Johnson offers Hibs kids contract hope as he makes first-team claim
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Several youngsters who have appeared for the club’s under-19s in the UEFA Youth League competition this season have been handed gametime with the senior squad either in competitive matches or friendlies.
Murray Aiken, Jacob Blaney, Robbie Hamilton, Murray Johnson, Oscar MacIntyre, Kanayo Megwa, and Josh O’Connor have all got minutes since the arrival of the 41-year-old while Jacob MacIntyre and Reuben McAllister have both been involved with matchday squads.
The Hibs boss is understandably impressed by the youngsters’ exploits in Europe but has urged them to make the step up to the first-team squad – and stay there. With the club likely to be discussing new contracts for the talented crop of youth players, Johnson’s comments will offer hope of a future at Easter Road.
He said: “We’ve all committed to the pathway and model that promotes young players. I’m very lucky that we’ve got some good young players. The European stuff is fantastic; however, the real test of an academy is how many players can come through to the first team and stay through.
“I genuinely believe that we’ve got players in the academy that can affect the first team in a positive way in the next 18 to 24 months. That becomes really important because when we’re working on succession plans, or working on the budget, it allows us to get high quality players because our young players are good enough to be in the squad.
"They’re then coming into a good team that’s well-organised and established at the level. We want to get there, but it may take two or three windows. In the meantime, of course, we have a squad capable of getting good results. There’s a lot of football to be played, and we’re very positive about the future.”
Johnson has previously explained his reluctance to pitch in the kids when the first team isn’t on a positive run of form, adding: “It's got to be the right timing. Sometimes it can be forced too early. They've got to be ready and feel confident and be coming into a side that's confident.”