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Kanayo Megwa’s unorthodox yet fast-tracked rise to the Scottish Premiership

Born in London, young Hibernian right-back Kanayo Megwa has made an impactful mark north of the border since moving from the English capital to the Scottish one in 2021. His fleeting rise in Leith took another noticeable uplift last month with Nick Montgomery’s decision to recall him from what turned out to be a productive loan spell in Airdrie in the first half of the current season. 

Since coming back to Easter Road, Megwa has instated himself as a regular first-team member having been involved in all his side’s league games post-winter break. His journey to the senior game, however, has been rather unorthodox.

In his younger years, the defender had spells with some English Championship clubs, but much of his progression in youth football came at Brook House. A private college based in the small, typically English town of Market Harborough. Megwa completed a scholarship at the academic institution. 

Then in 2021 upon an open trial day at Brook House, Megwa’s big break came. Hibernian scouts were in attendance and noticed the talents of the then 17-year-old. He was taken to Edinburgh for a trial over the summer and on 4th September 2021, Hibernian officially announced that Megwa had signed for the club on an initial two-year deal. It was his first professional football contract.

Immediately after joining, the right-back was thrown into Hibs’ U18 team. There, he played a pivotal role in their 2021/22 triumph in the CAS Elite Youth League. Such a victory allowed the young Hibees to gain European qualification and in matches against Molde, Nantes, and Borussia Dortmund in the 2022/23 UEFA Youth League, Megwa very much caught the eye. 

Subsequent first-team inclusions followed, but he never got any minutes on the pitch. Due to this, a loan to Kelty Hearts was organised and made official in March 2023. It coincided with the player signing a new and improved two-year contract with Hibs. 

In Scottish League One with Kelty, Megwa took to senior first-team football like a duck to water. He shone in the nine appearances he made for the Fife club.

Upon returning to Easter Road last summer, he was awarded the club’s academy player of the year award for 2022/23. Following this, another temporary spell for Megwa was agreed upon. This time, he moved up a division, joining Scottish Championship side Airdrieonians.

Megwa joined the Diamonds on what was initially supposed to be a loan until the end of the current campaign. 

Under Rhys McCabe, Airdrie have gained a reputation for playing a modern, attractive brand of football that is as entertaining as it is effective. This suited young Megwa to a tee, who excelled in his time in South Lanarkshire. 

Despite making just 14 Airdrie appearances, Megwa gained widespread plaudits. As well as numerous Man of the Match awards, the right-sided full-back was named his club’s Player of the Month for October and December.

The prolific impact he made at the Excelsior Stadium in the first half of the current season is evident, and he has since reaped the rewards of it. Indeed, mid-campaign, Megwa’s form was noticed by Hibs boss Nick Montgomery. 

The gaffer called him from his loan at Airdrie to join Hibs at their mid-season training camp in Dubai. Such a move is a testament to the young Englishman’s outstanding performances for Airdrie because Montgomery had yet to work with the player having only been appointed gaffer in September.

After having a significant look at the player in the Middle East, the decision was promptly made to recall Megwa from his Championship loan spell. Although this came as a noteworthy disappointment for Airdrie, it was a considerable boost for the Hibees going into the second half of 2023/24.

Indeed, manager Montgomery was greatly encouraged by Megwa after watching him train: “I have been really impressed with Kanayo from watching him at Airdrieonians and when he was with us in Dubai,” he told hibernianfc.co.uk.

“He has a great attitude, has trained well, and has a lot of quality attributes as a player.  Kanayo has had a great spell away on loan, he has made good progress and has come back an improved player with a lot more confidence too.

“This is the perfect example of how loan spells can benefit some of our young players.”

Given Lewis Miller’s absence due to the Asian Cup and Chris Cadden’s ongoing injury issues, it was clear that Megwa was being brought back to Hibs to compete for a place in the team at right-back. 

16-year-old prospect Rory Whittaker started against Forfar in the first game back after the winter stoppage, but it was Megwa who began the maiden league match of 2024. Giving the teenager his senior Hibs debut in a hotly anticipated clash with title contenders Rangers at Easter Road was a huge showing of faith from Montgomery, but it was a chance the vivacious youngster fully deserved. 

He didn’t take it as such because the hosts lost 3-0 on the night, but there were visible signs of potential from the 19-year-old. A few days later at Rugby Park, Megwa then got the nod yet again. Hibs went 2-0 down before the hour, but they rallied and came away with a point.

Once more, Megwa wasn’t overly impressive because he was subbed off on 57 minutes when his side were two down. He was resultantly dropped a week later against St. Mirren, but it should be taken into consideration that this is his first time playing at Premiership level, and there is much pressure being heaped on him.

Some of the criticism he has received from certain sections of the Hibernian support has been undue, and even caused the youngster to deactivate his account on X. This is in no way how young players coming through in Scotland should be treated, and instead, utmost patience should be shown to our most promising talent.

The majority of supporters in Leith are coming across in this sense to Megwa, though, which is positive. His ceiling is sky-high and as the season progresses, there will be vast opportunities for the London-born prospect to display his talents.

He will likely be involved in the Hibs first team for the remainder of the current campaign, gaining invaluable experience. Still just 19, Megwa does have a long way to go but already this season, he has continued his upward trajectory in Scotland that saw him initially win the title with the U18s, then the Reserve League in 2022/23 coupled with Hibs’ Academy Player of the Year Award.

His journey to the top has been slightly out of the ordinary regarding his time at college and moving away from home up to Scotland at 17 but it has benefitted him massively. He still has a long way to go until he becomes a star in the senior game, yet his emergence has rightly raised the attention of a number of watchful eyes. 

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