Ben Williams is desperate to see skipper James McPake win his fitness battle and lead Hibs out at Hampden on Sunday, but today the goalkeeper admitted he’d have no fears if boss Pat Fenlon is forced to pitch teenage defender Jordon Forster into the biggest game of his career.
The 19-year-old has made only three first-team appearances but has emerged a winner on each occasion as the Easter Road outfit defeated Hearts, Kilmarnock and Dundee in the space of just six days to clinch a seventh-place finish in the SPL table.
But while conceding Celtic in the Scottish Cup final is an entirely different proposition, Williams insisted he has total faith in the 6ft 2in kid.
McPake missed those three games after being struck by a back spasm on the eve of the derby at Tynecastle and, although having taken an injection in a bid to overcome the problem, he stated earlier this week he was confident of facing Celtic. Fenlon has rated the 28-year-old a “doubt” and insisted he won’t be taking any chances with his fitness.
Williams said: “James is a huge influence. He is our captain first and foremost, he is our leader and we want him on the park with us for whatever game we play in so hopefully he is fit for the final.”
Fenlon does have options to rejig his back four should McPake fail to make it with Tim Clancy having returned to training this week although he, too, has missed Hibs’ last three games through injury or he could simply opt to stick by those who have done well in the closing games of the season.
Forster is the latest in a string of kids to force their way into Fenlon’s plans in recent weeks, joining Alex Harris, Danny Handling and Ross Caldwell in vying for a place in Sunday’s squad. And Williams, who will take over the captain’s armband should McPake again be missing, believes they’ve justified that claim. He said: “They have been fantastic. They have come in at a difficult stage, thrown in at the deep end because one thing or another is not going for you so it’s a case of: ‘right, try the youngsters’.
“We’ve spoken about the influence Alex and Danny had in the semi-final and since then Ross and Jordon have stepped up as well which shows what a good squad we have in depth and it’s testament to the
coaches in having faith in the youngsters to bring them through with the confidence and competence they have.”
As goalkeeper Williams has had the opportunity to watch Forster in action at close hand, he’s been mightily impressed by the kid who grew up in
Gorgie. “Jordon made his debut in the derby, played very well and has done so in the games since. He’s very competent; for a young lad he has a good head on his shoulders and the coaches have had no problems in putting him in there.
“He has justified that position where you need a cool head and, normally, experience. Now he has a few games under his belt he has good confidence and looks as if he has been there all season. Obviously you don’t want to build the youngsters up too much as we are playing a top side in Celtic, but at least you have the faith that they can do the job.”