Hibs loan stars Sean Welsh and Lee Currie determined to battle for first-team spots despite Warriors' below-Par Cup display

IT was a tall order for Hibs kids Sean Welsh and Lee Currie as they prepared to make their debuts for Stenhousemuir, the Second Division side already four goals down to Dunfermline and facing an exit from the Active Nation Scottish Cup.

•Sean Welsh (left) and Lee Currie

"A couple each and an own goal will do," was the pep-talk from Warriors boss John Coughlin as the duo took to the field at East End Park.

The Ochilview Park outfit did manage to pull one back, Welsh playing in Kevin Bradley in the final minute, the only problem being that, by then, Stenny had shipped a further three goals.

Coughlin's parting words to the Hibs youngsters were no doubt uttered with tongue firmly in cheek but, as Welsh admitted today, they also carried an important message.

The midfielder said: "Of course it was a difficult situation for both of us, but we just wanted to get on the park to be honest.

"Football is all about attitude, you should never let your head go down regardless of what's happened.

"You have to keep trying right to the final whistle and that's what we did."

Coughlin, no doubt, looked curious to see how the Easter Road pair, on loan for a month to gain much-needed first team experience, would cope under such testing circumstances but, Welsh revealed, both he and Currie knew the Stenny boss wouldn't be the only interested observer.

Welsh, skipper of the Hibs Under-19 side which completed the League and Cup double last season and one of seven of them to earn first-team contracts, said: "Both John Hughes and Brian Rice told us before we came on loan that we'd be watched in every game.

"It's good to know that although we are playing our football elsewhere for the time being that we aren't forgotten.

"As such, it was important to both Lee and I to do our very best despite what was going on against Dunfermline not only to show John Coughlin what we can do but to ensure a favourable report found it's way back to Easter Road."

The Scottish Cup tie, of course, ended in controversy with Dunfermline guilty of playing Calum Woods when was suspended, the Pars due to hear their fate from a special SFA investigation later today.

While a fine seems the most likely outcome, if the Fife club were to be expelled from the competition it would pave the way for Stenhousemuir to face either Morton or Celtic in the next round.

As appetising as that may sound, Welsh insisted he had no thoughts on the issue. He said: "We can't complain about the result, we were well beaten. Anything more that happens is up to the SFA, as players, it is nothing to do with us."

The visit of Arbroath this weekend will give Currie and Welsh – life-long friends from Lochend – another opportunity to farther their credentials, the 19-year-old admitting both would gain invaluable experience at Ochilview.

Recalling how the likes of Kenny Miller, Ian Murray, Garry O'Connor and Derek Riordan had spent spells on loan at Stenhousemuir, Alloa Athletic, Peterhead and Cowdenbeath respectively, Welsh said: "It has worked before.

"Just because we are on loan doesn't mean we are out of the picture at Easter Road, this move gives both Lee and I the chance to gain a bit of first-team experience and I am sure we will return to Hibs all the better for it.

"I think it helps Lee and I having each other at the same club rather than being on our own although the lads at Stenhousemuir have made us more than welcome."

Having seen team-mate David Wotherspoon step from the Under-19 ranks to become an overnight hit in the SPL, Welsh and Currie are both desperate to do likewise although they recognise the fierce competition at Easter Road. Welsh said: "I feel I've been a bit unlucky in that I started the season playing catch-up having broken my foot towards the end of last season.

"Now I am back to full fitness and, like Lee, I just need competitive games to show what I can do."

First-team football, however, was something boss Hughes couldn't offer either of the youngsters at this stage – and he'll find no complaints from either Welsh or Currie.

Welsh said: "I'm delighted to see David doing so well, he got his chance when the gaffer came in and has taken it.

"Kurtis Byrne has also enjoyed bits and pieces but Kurtis being Kurtis he'll tell you he should be playing every week. And, with Graham Stack and Yves Ma-Kalambay injured, Thomas Flynn has found himself involved with the first team over the past few weeks.

"Although he hasn't got off the bench, he'll have gained a good bit simply from the experience of being around the squad on match days, as well as training, to see what it is all about.

"We've got a very strong squad at Easter Road at the moment, it's tough for anyone to get into the team and it might even get tougher if the gaffer brings anyone else in over the transfer window.

"You just need to look at who has been on the bench this season to see how stiff competition is, the likes of Patrick Cregg, Lewis Stevenson, Benji, Steven Thicot and Danny Galbraith have all been there and the return of Kevin McBride from injury will only add to that fight.

"And when the team are doing so well you can't have any complaints. If things weren't going well then you might have a reason to speak to the gaffer but that's certainly not the case."

Although Welsh and Currie are, to all intents and purposes, Stenhousemuir players for the next few weeks, the pair continue to train on a daily basis with Hughes' squad, the midfielder admitting he's already had his eyes opened to the demands put upon his new team-mates.

He said: "I've been lucky enough to be just playing football every day. Lee and I are still doing that but also training with Stenny on Tuesday and Thursday nights when the rest of the guys have put in a full day's work. It makes you appreciate what you have at club like Hibs and all the more determined to do everything I can to make it at Easter Road.

"There must be millions of young boys dream of becoming a professional player but it is very hard to make it."

As much as he appreciates the opportunity Stenhousemuir have offered him, Welsh admitted there was still one issue he had to overcome – playing in maroon.

He said: "I've been getting a hard time from a lot of my friends and family. I've dreamt all my life about pulling on a first-team shirt, but not a maroon one.

"I was expecting to have to do so last weekend but when I walked into the dressingroom it was Stenny's light-blue away strip hanging there.

"To be honest, though, it doesn't bother me, it's what I do regardless of the colour of the strip which is the most important thing."