Stevenson's rocket to fame with Hibs has Bell clambering for same

HIBS kid Fergus Bell today revealed how watching 19-year-old Lewis Stevenson steal the show in the CIS Insurance Cup final convinced him Easter Road was the place for him.

Stevenson picked up the man-of-the-match award as Hibs swept Kilmarnock aside to lift their first trophy in 16 years, underlining the Edinburgh outfit's commitment to youth.

Only a few months later, Durham-based Bell became part of that youth system and is already making his mark in Hibs' under-19 side which will tomorrow put their unbeaten record this season on the line again in the quarter-final of the SFA Youth Cup.

Newly-turned 18, Bell disclosed how Hibs' unrivalled record in nurturing and promoting young talent was an open secret south of the border, the midfielder jumping at the chance to try his luck in Edinburgh.

He said: "Hibs' reputation is well-known in the north of England and even farther south so I was delighted when they said they wanted to sign me.

"I was aware of all the obvious names like Scott Brown and Kevin Thomson and Garry O'Connor, who had moved to Birmingham City, as well as Derek Riordan.

"But Lewis is someone for me to look up to as he wasn't much older than I am now when he was man-of-the-match at Hampden. You look at what he has achieved, a regular member of the team at just 21 and you want to follow in his footsteps."

Bell and his team-mates are certainly giving every sign that they intend to do so, sitting top of the SPL's Under-19 League and facing Raith Rovers in the Cup at Livingston's Almondvale Stadium tomorrow (kick-off 1.00pm) thanks to a run of 15 matches without defeat.

The young midfielder, scorer of four of Hibs' eight goals in the win over Ross County in the previous round, puts that outstanding record down to the hard work put in pre-season.

He said: "It was a tough few weeks, we put in a lot of hard work but now it is paying off. We also had a good run of pre-season games which we won without conceding many goals so we felt this could be quite a special season for us."

It will only be so, of course, if the Hibs kids can maintain the standards they have set themselves, Bell admitting they are all aware that Raith, like every side they now come up against, will be desperate to be the team which wrecks that unbeaten record.

But he insisted that despite their youth, the youngsters have their feet firmly planted on the ground rather than having their heads in the clouds.

He said: "Everyone wants to beat the likes of Celtic and Rangers but because we are up there at the top of the League I'm sure they'd look on beating us as being extra special.

"If I was playing against a team which was undefeated then that's exactly what I'd be aiming to do. But there is no question of us being complacent, we know that having reached the quarter-finals of the Cup, Raith must be a good side.

"We'll be approaching the game as if it were one against the Old Firm or Hearts. We've got a few guys who are in their last year at this level so they keep the younger boys right and our captain Sean Welsh makes sure we are grounded as do the coaches Alistair Stevenson and James McDonaugh."

As well as their ability, the Hibs youngsters had their character put to the test in their last match, finding their unbeaten record under threat as they fell two goals behind to St Mirren before fighting back to draw 2-2.

Bell said: "A lot of the boys have played together for a few years and have been in that position.

"But there is something different about this team, when we are down we know we have the ability to come back even if it's 2-0 to a very good St Mirren side which has taken a few points off the big teams."

Bell knows that resilience will be put to the test time and again as Hibs chase a glory double, but he's convinced he and his team-mates can rise to each challenge.

He said: "Doing the double has been mentioned, but only outside the team. Our feet are on the ground and we take each game as it comes. After every match we have a team talk and the moment that's finished it's a matter of preparing for the next game.

"Everything is geared towards that and tomorrow is a massive match for us. If we can make it into the semi-finals then who knows what might happen while we also know we have to keep it going in the League.

"The good thing about our side is that our goals have come from all around the pitch, it's not as if we are relying on just one player to score. I think every outfield player has got at least one goal this season, anyone can pop up at any time with a goal when we need it and that's going to be important tomorrow."