There is a history of bringing talent through the ranks at Hibernian and assistant coach Grant Murray sees no reason why the conveyor belt should shudder to a halt, not when players like Oli Shaw are pushing themselves forward as a cheaper alternative to other high-premium strikers.
Saturday is likely to be about the established players who have guided the club back to the top flight but while they will enjoy lifting the Championship trophy after the final match of the season, against St Mirren, Murray, pictured, says there will be others on the sidelines already looking ahead to next term.
Manager Neil Lennon gave some of the up-and-coming talent a run out against Raith Rovers a couple of weeks ago, while others, such as Shaw, have been earning rave reviews all season, netting goals for the club’s development team, and gaining league experience on loan to Stenhousemuir. Murray believes it is only a matter of time before several of them make the breakthrough into Neil Lennon’s first team and follow in the footsteps of graduates such as Scotland and Celtic captain Scott Brown.
“Any football club wants youngsters coming through, and for us, seeing them given that opportunity is great,” said Murray. “Obviously you still want experience in your squad as well and whether the youngsters will go and play week in, week out next season, who knows, but it is an opportunity for them to say ‘I want to be part of the first team’.
“The fans, the club itself, you want to put demands on pushing youngsters through. It has been great being in charge of the under-20s along with Chris [Smith] and Lee [Makel] and Eddie [May] and seeing them winning games this season but the bottom line is getting players through for the manager to have in his first-team squad.”
Emboldened by a raft of role models, Murray says there is a belief that several players can make the step up.
“Walking round the corridors here, the guys get to see it because of the photographs of all of the players who have played here and come through the system,” he added. “For the youngsters, they can look at what these guys have gone on and achieved and Scott Brown is the biggest example. Even his career has taken another big lift this season and he is already into his thirties so that is massive credit to him.”
Had he not been busy gaining regular first-team football at Stenhousemuir, on top of his development league commitments, Murray believes 19-year-old Shaw could have made a contribution to the club’s Championship charge.
“He has probably been a bit unfortunate that he has been out on loa n and Ryan Porteous as well. The pair of them have been fantastic for the under-20s and got themselves in the Scotland U19 set-up and it is unfortunate that they are out on loan or they might have had more opportunity to play in the first team as well.
“He can score. He knows where the goals are, that’s for sure. He is very quick, reads the game well and makes good runs as a forward and I think as a youngster he is a good addition to the first team for next year.
“He will want to work hard in the summer so he can come back and make sure he is part of the manager’s plans next season.
“Oli doesn’t need to look any further than what is at the club already. There’s Jason [Cummings] who continually scores goals, season after season, and Jason is still only 21 years old. So if you are Oli Shaw, you are looking and wanting to be like that.”
Tomorrow’s match will be about the men who finally took the club back to the Premiership at the third time of asking and the biggest quandary will be selecting a starting line-up from a squad of players who have all played their part, according to Murray.
“The guys know that every player in the squad has contributed this season and they will receive their medal as well but they will all still want to play,” he said. “As a player you want to finish the season in the team.
“There’s a satisfaction that the squad will feel. Winning the Scottish Cup was unbelievable but the main aim was always promotion. Everyone will feel that sense of relief and excitement as well. It’s an exciting time for the football club, back in the Premiership.”