Oli Shaw will force way into Hibs contention, says Neil Lennon
Neil Lennon expects teenage scoring sensation Oli Shaw to force his way into the Hibs first-team squad next season.
The striker, who turned 19 earlier this month, is currently in the Czech Republic with Scotland Under-19s, who play the first of their three Euro 2017 elite round matches against Austria today. They then face the Czechs on Friday and Hungary on Sunday, with the winners of the four-team section progressing to the finals in Georgia in July.
Shaw, pictured, goes into the matches in the Czech city of Zlin in buoyant mood after notching 21 goals – including two hat-tricks – for the high-flying Easter Road development team so far this season. In addition, the red-hot hitman has scored three times during 18 first-team appearances on loan at League One strugglers Stenhousemuir.
Hibs manager Lennon is excited by Shaw’s emergence as one of the top teenage prospects in the country and is confident the young goal machine possesses the required mentality to soon start making his presence felt in the Easter Road first team. “I’ve been really impressed with Oli,” he told the Evening News. “Certainly his form in the development team over the past few months has been fantastic. He’s a standout at that level. At times he looks heads shoulders above the opposition. That’s all well and good at development level, but the gap between that and the first team is huge. He needs to bridge that gap, but I’m sure he will.
“God willing, if we get promotion, Oli will certainly be a part of the squad going into next season. If he wasn’t on loan at Stenhousemuir he’d be in the squad now. It’ll be an important summer for him, but he’s certainly shown plenty for me to be able to say ‘yeah, come and be part of it next year.’ I’ve been delighted with his progress this year.”
Lennon feels Shaw is benefitting from sampling senior football at Stenhousemuir and believes the youngster is only going to get better as he bulks up physically. “Hopefully he’ll have gained good experience from his loan stint at Stenhousemuir in terms of the nuts and bolts of the game and scoring goals,” said the Hibs manager. “He’s improved his play back to goal, he’s quick and his movement’s good. He’s an excellent finisher. He’s got good feet and his physicality has improved in terms of being able to lead the line, but I think he needs to put on a few pounds because he’s still got that gangly frame. He needs to put a bit more muscle on his upper body, but I think he’ll do that. His attitude’s very good. I think he’s hungry – he really wants it, which is a good sign.”