HIBS boss John Hughes has insisted he won't rush the next generation of Easter Road youngsters into SPL action before he believes they are ready for the step-up.
Hughes was well aware of grumblings among the fans last season curious as to why the likes of Danny Galbraith and Kurtis Byrne weren't given more first team action.
Despite scoring a sensational winner against Celtic in Glasgow, former Manchester United kid Galbraith made just two more appearances, both as a substitute, between then and the end of the season.
Republic of Ireland Under-19 striker Byrne got even less game time, stepping from the bench just four times before being sent out for a short spell on loan with Stirling Albion in the Second Division.
But while fans questioned why others such as Ewan Moyes, Lee Currie and Sean Welsh, promoted alongside Byrne, David Wotherspoon and Thoms Flynn, from the club's highly successful Under-19 side last summer, hadn't featured at all, Hughes replied simply that he felt they weren't yet ready for the rigours of top flight football.
Wotherspoon, of course, became an instant hit, scoring on his debut on the opening day of the season and confounding even himself by becoming a first team regular while Moyes, along with Callum Booth spent a successful spell on loan with Arbroath.
For Hughes, however, it was a case of balancing the club's drive for Europe with nurturing the youngsters' talent. He said: "We have a great reputation for producing young players and, of course, that is something we will never lose sight of.
"But, at a time when we were banging on the door for Europe and trying to challenge the Old Firm, I felt these boys, and that's what they are, still have a lot to learn.
"They can't come in and say 'great, I've made it,' they still have to earn their stripes. However, the door is still wide open for them and I feel there is a massive future for them here and hopefully for one or two of them that will mean first team football next season."
Calls for the youngsters to be given their chance were at their loudest as Hughes' side appeared to lose its way before clinching fourth place on the final day of the season but the manager revealed why he refused to be pressurised into bowing to the fans demands.
He said: "It's always been the case in football, when things are not going too well then suddenly the guys that aren't playing are better than anyone else.
"But I see them in training every day, it's my job to make sure we get the best out of them, not just in terms of their talent but their character, that will to win within the culture we are trying to create at the club."
• HIBS have revealed the first of five new sponsorship deals will be with RFA (UK) Communiflex, who have obtained exclusive selling media rights within the concourses and washrooms at Easter Road.
The club are expected, as disclosed in the Evening News, to unveil further agreements covering cars, beer, betting and short sponsorship over the next few days.