How Hibs are forging links with US as Jack Ross prepares to run rule over trio
While the special relationship between the US and the UK has been in the news again, with the transfer of political power from Donald Trump to President Elect Joe Biden, there has also been significant work going on in the football world to foster greater engagement between USA and Scotland.
Hibs are set to welcome three US players into their development team training ranks, once quarantine protocols have been satisfied, and coaches and staff will run the rule over possible signings
While none of them are expected to walk straight into the first team, there is no doubt that Hibs owner Ron Gordon wants the club to pay more attention to the largely-untapped US market.
The Peruvian-born American businessman, who took over the Leith side in July last year, has been open about his desire to establish what he calls ‘strategic partnerships’ with teams in his home country.
Recently, he revealed that talks were ongoing with at least two clubs and it is understood that one of those agreements has now been formalised and is ready to be announced.
In the meantime, players from other US franchises, including FC Dallas’ midfielder Thomas Roberts, have arrived in the UK and are quarantining ahead of trials with the Premiership side.
Roberts is a left-footed central midfielder and the 19-year-old was one of a group of FC Dallas youngsters who previously had the opportunity to train with Bayern Munich. The youth academy graduate has also played at national age group level and was part of the US U-20 set up earlier this year.
The ‘bigger’ picture
“The club is exploring broader markets in terms of our recruitment so we are hoping to have a look at a few players from the States over the coming weeks,” said Ross. “But that is wrapped up in the club’s bigger picture rather than it just being a first-team matter.
“Once they come out of quarantine. we’ll be able to assess the group between the development players we have here and then we’ll assess whether or not they are good enough for the club and strong enough to be in with the first-team group as well. But it is more an example of the club trying to expand the areas the club can recruit from.”
Leaving no stone unturned
Any involvement with the first team will depend on them meeting the levels expected in training and then submitting to Covid testing to allow them to join the ‘bubble’.
Despite Gordon’s desire to see the club establish links with the USA, that progression is not guaranteed, although Ross said he is happy to see the club explore all avenues of recruitment.
“There’s been ongoing discussions for a while now about formalising a partnership,” said Ross. “How close that is I’m not sure but I think there are examples that benefit clubs around the world that do that. They can set up partnership clubs below and above them to operate in different ways whether it is a feeder club or whether it is to have players going to another club.
“It is an example of us trying to recruit players from broader areas, I think to set up any strategic partnerships is an example of the club trying to broaden its ability to be successful, which is obviously very important.”
An announcement on the deal already struck with a US club is expected imminently and feeds Gordons’ desire to draw up affiliations with clubs at home and across the Atlantic.
Keen to canvas wider areas for talent, he has said he wants to swap players and practices with a series of partner clubs
“Hopefully, we can work so the sum of the parts is greater, so one plus one is three and we are able to swap players or pass practices or create pathways for players so they can go to the top,” he said in a recent interview with Sky TV, where he insisted that despite many of his proposals for the improvement of the club’s infrastructure being placed on hold because of the social and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, he remained keen to push on with plans to establish greater ties with clubs in the US in the hope it will open up a door to fresh talent and allow them to close the gap on the teams above them in the Scottish Premiership.
Underlining those ambitions, which took a dunt with the Scottish Cup semi-final exit at the hands of rivals Hearts, and the self-sabotaging performance against Aberdeen, that not only saw them miss out on the chance to rise above Celtic, but saw them slip below Abedeen.
Insisting that he does not want to see Hibs limit their own ambition he has always stressed his belief that while the Leith club “may not be the biggest, but we can certainly be the best” and, in his opinion, they have to be on the front foot, on and off the pitch, if they are to achieve that.
The arrival of a few MLS players this week will not drive that success on it’s own but is an early move to secure what Gordon hopes will be long and fruitful partnerships, according to that recent interview.
“We have a team in the United States that we are working with and we have a team here in Scotland that we are working with and then I think we have two or three others that we are having conversations with where we are looking at things we can do together.”