Every year across Scotland, a handful of young men fulfill their boyhood dreams when they sign full-time for a football club. Here at YFS we're putting the spotlight on the new kids on the block who've just made the grade from youth academy level to the professional game, as they make the next step in their promising careers.
It’s coming up for ten years since Hibernian FC opened the East Mains training centre. After spending £5m on the state of the art centre, Hibs hoped this would see a steady stream of young, hungry talent coming through the doors at Easter Road.
The new facilities have seen some success, with the likes of Oli Shaw and Ryan Porteous recently breaking into the first team as the latest in a steady crop of young players finding their way into the first team at Hibs, and coaches are quietly optimistic over the talent coming through the ranks.
One such player, is striker Yrick Gallantes. Gallantes was spotted by Hibs scouts after impressing them with his pace, eye for goal and ability to bring his other teammates into the game whilst playing for Newcraighall Leith Vics.
Hibs’ coaches were quick to spot Gallantes’ potential, and even included him in some SPFL Development League matches towards the tail end of last season, at the young age of just 15 and scored his first goal for the side in a 5-0 victory against St Johnstone.
Manager Neil Lennon was coy on the forward’s potential, telling the Daily Mail: “I’m in no rush to push him forward, we want him to develop with the rest of them. I’m not saying he’s an outstanding talent but he’s got something because the guys think he’s good enough to make an impact.”
With Gallantes offering an exciting talent at one end of the pitch, Kane O’Connor is hoping to offer some stability to the Hibs rearguard in the future. O’Connor was recently handed his first professional contract in January of this year, after a string of impressive performances in the Development team and for Scotland Under 17s, including appearing in the Victory Shield last year.
Hibernian have overseen O’Connor’s development for the last seven years, and will be hoping this time will have prepared him to break into the first team once deemed ready.
Speaking to Hibernian FC, O’Connor, who can play in the middle of defence as well as right back, said: “I’m very proud, I’ve worked hard to get to this point for seven years and it’s good to be here.
Playing with some first team players who have a lot of experience and they do help you, and playing against experienced players means that you get to see how physical and how much ability they have which is much higher that you are used to playing against in the Under 17s.”
With fellow defender Ryan Porteous gaining more first team opportunities, O’Connor will be hoping to showcase his talents to further his development before reaching his ultimate goal of breaking into the first team.
The two players recently graduated into the Hibs Academy’s professional ranks, along with 17-year-old Josh Campbell. The centre half made his debut for the development team last year, despite being only 16 and scored his first goal in September, a memorable late winner against St Mirren.
The head of the academy at Hibs, Eddie May, was full of praise for the trio as they graduated. He said: “Josh, Yrick and Kane have all performed incredibly well in training sessions and in matches, and it is a testament to their ability that they have all contributed to the Development Squad.”
The next step for these young players will be to show the same desire and hunger that they have to come as far as they have in their young ages. It is also down to Hibernian to utilise the facilities they have with their £5m training centre to maximise the player’s potential.
The only certainty is that Hibs have an exciting group of young players coming through their ranks, and supporters and coaches alike will hope to see the results of the state of the art facility come through with talents such as Gallantes, O’Connor and Campbell to take back their place as one of the prominent figures in Scottish football.