Steve Kean hopes UEFA Youth League experience can help catapult Hibs kids into Easter Road first team
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The former Blackburn Rovers boss, who will take the team along with Gareth Evans and Darren McGregor, is hopeful of a positive result but believes the experience is about far more than just the 90 minutes on the park.
“We want to get through but we are also thinking about the players’ individual development,” he said.
"We have lads who aren’t considered youth players any more, even though this is deemed a youth competition. Our boys who were part of last year’s under-18s are now in a different phase. They are development players looking to be training with the first team as often as possible and even pushing to get onto the bench.
“When you are fronting it up one v one on a stage like this against players who are playing for their international team and have been in and around their first team then it’s a good test of where we are.”
With just six players aged 18 in the travelling squad – and three 15-year-olds – Kean is only too aware of the benefits for younger players.
“It’s not just the game, it’s about travelling to different countries, experiencing staying in different hotels, training on different surfaces, travelling through the mountains – it’s a little bit of everything,” he added.
“Some of these boys are really young – born in 2007 – and to be involved in a game like this is superb. You can’t buy this.”
The exploits of Hibs’ title-winning under-18 have been well documented and Kean feels that some of that group are on the cusp of regular involvement with the senior squad, especially with Johnson’s positive attitude towards youngsters and the pathway from academy to first team.
“Some of these lads have been on the bench for the first team and feel as though it’s within touching distance, so if they do well in this competition and show they can compete against top-calibre young players then it’s a win-win,” Kean explained.
"They will have the experience, and can show they are ready to step into the first team.
"A few of them are really close in my opinion.”