ONE goal and Hibs’ David Wotherspoon went from a nobody to a somebody in the eyes of his girlfriend Sophie’s father.
Admittedly that goal was against city rivals Hearts and it dumped them out of the Scottish Cup and edged the Leith side one step closer to, perhaps, ending the club’s apparent hoodoo in that competition.
“My girlfriend’s dad is a massive Hibs fan so definitely that plays a part in it and gets me right up for the derby. It’s not the tactical side of the game, it everything else. He has been a loyal supporter and he has the club in his heart.
“He’s got a room through the back of his house with loads of pictures and Hibs stuff, the club’s past, its history, and it was great for me to look at especially when I didn’t know much about the history. It was good to see that but my picture wasn’t up on the wall. I was a bit nervous about that at the start but as soon as I scored that goal against Hearts in the cup, my picture went up and then a few others after it. So I think I have won him round!”
That was in December, the only one of the three Edinburgh derbies this term to serve up a win for either side. Until that late strike was deflected past Jamie MacDonald by Marius Zaliukas to give Hibs victory, the Leith side were heading for 13 games without a win against their capital neighbours.
Wotherspoon added: “When you go out on that pitch, at either stadium, I think it’s such a lively atmosphere and it gets you buzzing and you know that the fans want to kick every ball for you. The games between us this season have been very tight, they are big games so there is always going to be that tightness and adrenaline rush involved. It is always a big game and a big game for the fans and then that one was in the cup as well.
“We had gone so long without beating them so getting that win in the cup was a great moment for us all. It was brilliant and I think everybody saw the satisfaction on my face after getting that goal, particularly after the disappointment of the cup final and that spurred me on to be even more determined to make a difference in a derby day. We need to push on from that and this weekend is a big game in terms of staying in that top six.”
Wotherspoon didn’t even make the bench at Hampden last May as Hibs went down 5-1 to their great rivals but that made it no less agonising. “I went through it all on the sidelines. There are a few players in the camp who went through the mill that day and having suffered the defeat we did, it will still hang around in the back of our minds.
“They [Hearts] had the town to themselves that weekend but the way to keep them quiet now is by beating them on the pitch and that is what we need to do. I think there is more belief, we have got that back in the last few weeks after a little down spell.”
Hibs’ journey into the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup has kept the mood buoyant but they now have to focus on the tussle for a top-six place when the league splits after the next four games. They have won just two league matches since the beginning of December, drawing six and losing five.
Kevin Thomson, who left the club for Rangers in acrimonious circumstances but has signed on until the end of the season, could help change those fortunes but he won’t be involved this afternoon.
With stories circulating that Wotherspoon had agreed to join Rangers in the summer, he dismissed them as “pure rumour”, stating he has already spoken to Hibs manager Pat Fenlon about a new contract. “That gave me confidence and [it was] a bit of relief that he still wants me here and the club still wants me here. It was a weight off my shoulders but that was a couple of months ago so I’m now just waiting to see.”
But Wotherspoon took a while to win his gaffer round. “We have talked a lot more over the past few months than we did previously and we have a much better understanding. It was difficult for myself and him at first but it has been better this season and, hopefully, I can keep proving the critics wrong.”
Having won over his manager and his other half’s dad, he has already swayed the opinion of, arguably, the two most important people.
“Her dad talks about the old days, about Pat Stanton and people like that. He always goes back to those days, always refers to them. But it would be perfect if he put up more pictures of me. It would mean I’m doing OK.”