The reasons behind Riley Harbottle signing as Hibs look to ensure a conveyor belt of young talent

A couple of seasons ago it was Rocky Bushiri, last term it was Will Fish and this time it is Riley Harbottle - players brought in by Hibs, all young men who are not assured of sustained first team football in the short term but who have the raw materials the club believe they can mould into shape.

While the likes of Ryan Porteous and Paul Hanlon were each products of the club academy and the intention is always to bring more through more via that route, for now the club have landed on a compromise and have been recruiting players who are not quite first-team regulars for their parent clubs but who can be turned into key contributors over the course of a season.

The fact that the Leith side are keen to re-enlist Manchester United’s Fish for another campaign shows just how successful their approach has been.

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Unaccustomed as the Old Trafford defender was to top flight football when he first arrived at Hibs, patience proved a virtue. His time at the club helped his evolution and he was eventually seen as a worthy starter and one half of the first choice centre-back pairing, alongside the significantly more experienced Paul Hanlon.

Hibs' new signing Riley Harbottle at the Hibernian Training Centre. Photo by Craig Foy / SNS GroupHibs' new signing Riley Harbottle at the Hibernian Training Centre. Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group
Hibs' new signing Riley Harbottle at the Hibernian Training Centre. Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group

With manager Lee Johnson open about his love of coaching players and making them better, he doesn’t necessarily have the desire to bring in journeymen or the budget to buy ready made performers, which is why it makes sense to tap into the potential of youngsters who have come through the ranks at calibre clubs, shown ability and gained a professional grounding but still have room for improvement and growth.

If done properly, it can produce a conveyor belt of players who come in, adapt and then move into the first team, prove themselves at that level, help the team and then, if the advancement continues, be sold on for profit, as Hibs then turn to the next hungry guy who has been gradually tested and proved himself ready to step in.

The hope is that Fish, having served his apprenticeship last term, will slip back in alongside Hanlon, provided the loan deal, which has been held up while United pull together enough players to fulfil all their pre-season friendly commitments, can be pushed through, as planned.

But, the arrival of Riley Harbottle on a three-year deal will see another young man of decent pedigree waiting in the wings, given match time as and when it is possible by the Hibs coaching staff, as he is taught how to deal with the Scottish game.

Brought in initially as a fourth choice centre-half, the 22-year-old is considered one for the future, though. And, given how well he handled himself when on loan at Mansfield Town, under Nigel Clough last term, he may not take long to prove himself in training and start competing for more.

Described as a tough, uncompromising defender, he made 37 appearances for The Stags in League Two and netted six goals and many around his parent club Nottingham Forest backed him to return and stake a claim for first team appearances this season.

Instead, he has moved on in the hope of swifter progression, at Hibs, under Johnson. The latest young defender determined to prove his worth.



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