Hibs warned 'play Byrne or lose him'
HIBS face the prospect of losing their under-19 league and cup winning hero Kurtis Byrne to Celtic if he is not fast-tracked into the Easter Road first team by manager Mixu Paatelainen.
The stark warning, which is certain to alarm the Hibs supporters who have thrilled to the Republic of Ireland under-19 international striker's remarkable contribution to their youth team's historic success over the past week, comes from the player's father, the former Celtic midfielder Paul Byrne.
While savouring his son's achievement in scoring the goals which secured both the Clydesdale Bank SPL under-19 championship and SFA Youth Cup for Hibs, Byrne insists the teenager should already be a part of Paatelainen's first team plans.
According to Byrne, Celtic first team coach Neil Lennon has already been alerted to the potential of the player who joined Hibs in September 2007 after negotiating his release from Norwich City.
"Everyone except the manager at Hibs seems to know how much ability Kurtis has and that he is ready for the first team now," Byrne told The Scotsman.
"It's a bit frustrating, to be honest. He hasn't even been part of a first-team squad this season. If you have a young player as good as Kurtis, then you should include him as part of the squad now and then.
"I'm his dad, but I'm not wrong about Kurtis. He's got the ability and he deserves to have sampled first-team football by now.
"I was speaking to Neil (Lennon] recently and he said he would keep an eye on Kurtis' progress, so maybe I've started something there in terms of interest from Celtic. Kurtis is enjoying it at Hibs, but obviously he wants to play first-team football."
Having failed to maximise his own potential as a footballer, his career entering a gradual decline when he left Celtic in 1995, Byrne has no doubts his son will make the most of his abilities over the next few years. "Kurtis is a very passionate and determined kid," he added. "He knows all about the mistakes I made in my career with drinking and gambling. He saw the damage it did and he won't make the same mistakes."
The Hibs youngster, meanwhile, will be recalled to the Republic of Ireland squad for their Uefa European Under-19 Championship Elite round qualifying matches against Belgium, Switzerland and Sweden in June.
Sean McCaffrey, the Republic of Ireland coach, said: "Kurtis is a lad who needs to add more consistency to his game. But he is undoubtedly a talented player and he will be selected for the qualifiers this summer."
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