Why Kevin Dabrowski is ready to challenge for Hibs No.1 spot - Fraser Forster comparison, game-winning performances and fan favourite
The goalkeeping headache currently being nursed at Hibs is different to the calamitous ones left in the past.
With Dillon Barnes returning to QPR and Ofir Marciano's injury issues, it has left Jack Ross short in the area.
There have been noises surrounding the arrival of Matt Macey from Arsenal, however an answer may lie closer to home in the recalling of Kevin Dabrowski.
The 22-year-old has spent the first half of the season on loan at League One Dumbarton where he has left an indelible impression on the club, management and fan base. So much so that some supporters are now preparing for a relegation battle rather than one which focused on possible promotion.
In terms of most valuable players awards in the third tier, Dabrowski would be a prime candidate after a raft of standout displays.
“It was a huge blow," Fraser Clarke, local journalist and Dumbarton TV commentator, told the Evening News. “Sons fans have now turned their sights to avoiding relegation rather than pushing for a promotion playoff position solely because of Kevin being recalled.
"It's no exaggeration to say that half the points Dumbarton have this season are down to him - arguably more. His showing against Cove Rangers basically single-handedly secured three points, his opening day heroics secured a draw with Forfar Athletic and his performance against Partick Thistle – in a match where they had 22 shots to Dumbarton's one – was as a good as any Sons fan has seen from a goalkeeper in a very long time.”
Schmeichel , Forster and Pope
Dabrowski was the second busiest goalkeepers in the division in terms of saves, averaging 3.84 per 90 minutes, while no goalkeeper prevented more goals than him.
Such are his qualities at keeping the ball out of the net, his physique and height, plus his consistency, flattering comparisons have been drawn.
Clarke explained: "For me there's not another goalkeeper in the division I would've swapped him for, and there is a decent standard of goalkeeper in the league. I was actually thinking about it the other week and, probably with the exception of Craig Gordon at Hearts, I don't think there's a goalkeeper in the Championship who I would've swapped for him.
“I've been most impressed by his consistency. No question. For a 22-year-old keeper to come into a team that has struggled defensively with only 18 senior appearances under his belt and not make a single mistake leading to a goal, let alone have one poor game, is remarkable.
"Speaking to him at the start of the season he said that consistency is what he was looking to build in his game as a young keeper - and there's no doubt he's achieved that in his short time at the Rock.”
He added: “It's not unusual to see a physically imposing keeper who struggles to use his size to his advantage, Kevin certainly uses every inch of his 6"6 frame. He's perfected the [Peter] Schmeichel block and the strength in his arms is incredible. If he gets a touch on a ball then it's very rare to see it go beyond him.
"Robert Glen, Dumbarton's goalkeeping coach, has likened him to Fraser Forster in that way - and I can definitely see what he means. I also think he's not dissimilar to Nick Pope at Burnley in style and build, who is another guy who uses all of his lanky frame to his advantage.”
Personality and intensity
It probably isn’t a secret to many at Hibs that Dabrowski is a larger than life character. In a short space of time at Dumbarton he brought a vibrancy and excitement to the squad environment and it transfers to the pitch, including his cheeky message to ex-Easter Road striker Brian Graham after stopping his penalty.
“It's a real shame that fans won't get to have seen Kevin play live in a Sons shirt, because they would've taken him to heart instantly - just as I'm sure Hibernian fans will,” Clarke said.
“He's extremely vocal, slightly mad and unquestionably a huge character in the changing room.
“[Dumbarton boss] Jim Duffy mentioned that, from the first moment he walked in, he just lifted the place because of his personality – but also the intensity that he trains and plays at.
"I think the fans took to him quickly, and he only grew in their eyes, not only with his performances, but also with little things. He controlled a Cove cross on his chest before picking it up for example. That's the sort of thing that supporters love to see, even if it makes their heart skip a beat.”
Strong character and ready to be No.1
Clarke added: “On a personal level I spoke to him a few times and you can tell that he absolutely loves the game.
"He's very open about the fact he just loves making saves and throwing himself at the ball, he's still got that enthusiasm that we all probably had when we were kicking (or blocking) a ball for the first time, and it's difficult to see that ever wearing off.”
Dabrowski is currently primed to start Monday's Premiership fixture with Celtic, but looking further ahead Clarke sees no reason why the goalkeeper can't compete and fill the No.1 spot at Easter Road.
“It's a huge step up, but one that he deserves,” he said.
"He is still a young goalkeeper, he will make mistakes but he doesn't seem like the sort of character who will be daunted by the thought of making his Hibernian debut.
"In fact, if anything, I think he'd relish the pressure and challenge of the opportunity.”