Hibs boss Paul Heckingbottom urges academy graduates to make first team their own

Paul Heckingbottom has challenged Hibs’ academy graduates to make their presence felt in the first team this season.

Fraser Murray has made 19 first-team apperances for Hibs
Fraser Murray has made 19 first-team apperances for Hibs

Twenty-year-old pair Sean Mackie and Fraser Murray have stepped up this summer to join Ryan Porteous, also 20, and 21-year-old Oli Shaw as fully-fledged members of the club’s 22-man senior squad for the season ahead.

Mackie, Murray and Shaw will all be in the squad for today’s Premiership opener against St Mirren at Easter Road, while Porteous became a regular last term before succumbing to a long-term knee injury in January. He made his first appearance in six months as a substitute in Tuesday’s friendly defeat by Newcastle United but is unlikely to be involved today.

Heckingbottom is hoping the likes of Mackie and Murray can now force their way into his starting line-up and prove that they deserve to stay there.

“Oli and Ryan were already in the dressing room and Sean and Fraser have moved in so we have four academy boys in the 22,” he explained. “We’re pleased with that but this is the hardest part of that, getting in the team and staying there.”

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Murray made his first-team debut under Neil Lennon in a Challenge Cup tie against Turriff United almost three years ago. He has scored four goals in 19 appearances, and Heckingbottom feels he has the credentials to become a prominent member of his team, either as a wide player or a central midfielder.

“He’s made that step up, he’s moved into the first-team dressing room,” said Heckingbottom. “He’s a first-team squad player and I’m really happy with lots of parts of his game and his attitude to keep getting better. It’s up to us to keep pushing him to doing that.

“He’ll not get game time if he is not performing but one thing you’re guaranteed with Fraser is there is a drive and a willingness to impress, do well and try and implement things. He is fearless in that he always wants the ball and he’ll try and make things happen, and that’s a good quality to have.”

With Martin Boyle, Lewis Stevenson, Vykintas Slivka and David Gray all missing today’s match against St Mirren through injury, both Murray and Mackie are in contention for a starting place.