Paul Grant is set to make his first-team debut tomorrow as Hibs boss Pat Fenlon wraps goalkeeper Mark Brown in cotton wool ahead of next week’s historic all-Edinburgh Scottish Cup final against Hearts.
The teenager is expected to line up against Inverness Caley for his first taste of SPL action having found himself thrust into Fenlon’s cup plans after Easter Road No. 1 Graham Stack suffered a serious thigh injury in the semi-final win over Aberdeen.
With Calum Antell on loan at East Stirling and cup-tied, the Gilmerton kid jumped from fourth choice to take a seat on the bench as Hibs won their battle to stave off relegation and will be back-up to Brown at Hampden in eight days.
However, the roles are likely to be reversed in the Highlands tomorrow with Brown on the bench to avoid the risk of injury ahead of the showdown with the Jambos, presenting Grant with an unexpected chance to make his debut.
Grant, who paid his own way in to the semi-final and hitched a lift home on a supporters’ bus, admitted he couldn’t have imagined how the last few weeks have turned out. He said: “It’s been a huge month, great experience for me.
“Being on the bench has been brilliant, it’s been a dream come true. When I saw Stacky go off against Aberdeen I didn’t think it would be that serious but while I’m gutted for him I’m delighted for myself.”
And Grant insisted he’ll take the final game of the SPL season in his stride should Fenlon, as expected, hand him the gloves. He said: “Hopefully I’ll get a game, that would be good experience for me.
“I’m not one for getting nervous, I keep calm and quite relaxed but it is exciting for me. I’m hoping the manager decides to pick me and then I can show everyone what I can do.”
Midfielder Sam Stanton is likely to join Grant in Hibs’ starting line-up, the 18-year-old having made his debut as a late substitute against Rangers at Ibrox earlier in the season. Club captain Ian Murray, who has been sidelined with a hip problem since the start of the year, will also come into the reckoning for the trip to the Highlands for what could be his last match in a green and white shirt, with Fenlon insisting there’s still time for the utility man to stake a claim for a place in his Hampden squad while declaring sentiment won’t come into play when it comes to making that decision.
The Hibs boss, who will take his players to a four-day training camp on the outskirts of Dublin on Sunday, said: “I think there are some areas in the team where people can get themselves into the team – or at least on to the bench.
“We’ve got a lot of fit players, the subs are cut from seven in the league to five for the cup, but there are opportunities. But sentiment doesn’t come into it in football. I don’t pick teams on personalities or sentiment – I pick them because it’s the best team to win the game.
“Ian has done well to put himself in the frame because, three or four weeks ago, it looked like his season was over. He’s worked hard to get himself fit.”