Darren McGregor challenges Hibs kids to launch their first-team bid

Neil Lennon's Hibs squad may be short on numbers but defender Darren McGregor sees that as a chance for the Easter Road kids who joined the first team at their winter training camp in Dubai to stake their claim.
Darren McGregor has called on Hibs' youngsters to challenge for the first team. Picture: SNS GroupDarren McGregor has called on Hibs' youngsters to challenge for the first team. Picture: SNS Group
Darren McGregor has called on Hibs' youngsters to challenge for the first team. Picture: SNS Group

Youngsters Sean Mackie, Kevin Dabrowski, Jamie Gullan, Ben Stirling, Lewis Allan and Fraser Murray all found themselves flying out to the Middle East with injury having deprived Lennon of Lewis Stevenson, Ofir Marciano, Thomas Agyepong and Martin Boyle, while Mark Milligan and Jamie Maclaren were in the United Arab Emirates but on international duty with Australia.

McGregor believes those younger players should be looking to use the week in the sunshine to force their way into Lennon’s plans.

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He said: “Oli Shaw and Ryan Porteous are firm fixtures now while Sean has been great in the few matches he’s played so far. Watching training out there, Fraser Murray has now got over his injury issues and I think he will be a right find when he gets up to speed. The squad is thin but for these guys – they are still young men but they are 18, 19, 20 – this is their opportunity.

“A door has closed in one sense, but another opens.

“The challenge for them is they’ve been brought to Dubai at 18 or 19 with very little experience in the first team, to learn from the older players, the more experienced players, and stake a claim because this is a prime opportunity to try to get into the first team and make their name from this point onwards.”

McGregor himself was sidelined for weeks after suffering a knee injury during the Europa League match against Asteras Tripolis in Greece but, he insisted, that early start to the season didn’t explain away what has been a crippling casualty list with only Efe Ambrose, before his 
exit, and Steven Whittaker having been available for 
every game.

“It’s been incredible with injuries, bad ones. Yes, we had that early start in Europe but Celtic will say they have that every season.

“I think sometimes you just get unlucky. Look at Lewy (Stevenson), when was the last time he was injured? Since I have been here I’ve never known him to be injured. Sometimes over the course of your career you pick up niggles, it’s just a fact that in today’s game you have to be overcautious if it’s a hamstring and you push it, tear it and you are looking at eight weeks as opposed to one week 

Hibs’ injury problems have largely been overlooked but, insisted McGregor, that’s no excuse for a disappointing first half to the season.

He said: “As a neutral you would look at is as an excuse but the one thing I don’t want to do is use injuries as an excuse because I think other teams have had their share of injuries.

“Has it hindered us? Of course it has, but you just have to get on with it and cannot make too big a deal of it.

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“We know we are thin on the ground and injuries have played a part in it and we’ve under-performed, but paying fans don’t want to hear that as an excuse for being beaten or drawing. We have to get on with it.”