Jordon Forster knows that his career could not be in better hands. The centre-half broke into the Hibernian first team under Pat Fenlon, a small terrier-like midfielder whose qualities as a player were more often shown in the opponents’ half of the field. Now, however, Forster has Terry Butcher to guide him.
Often, players ponder the recruitment of a new manager with a degree of apprehension. Although he dropped out of the picture under Fenlon towards the end, the Irishman had handed the then 19-year-old Forster his big breakthrough last season. Fenlon named him in his Scottish Cup final team after only three previous starts and, although Hibs suffered a 3-0 defeat, Forster let no-one down. However, he lost his place in the side after the defeats to Malmo at the start of this campaign and then the manager who had once placed so much faith in him also left, but not before handing the defender a new two-year extension to his current deal. It was not quite signed and sealed before Butcher was unveiled as Hibs’ latest manager last month, but the manager quickly endorsed the decision to extend Forster’s stay, much to the player’s relief. Butcher has also named Forster in both his starting XIs so far and will likely turn to him again this afternoon against Partick Thistle as the manager makes his long-awaited bow at Easter Road.
While he might briefly have fretted about Fenlon’s replacement, Forster knows he could have no better qualified tutor than Butcher, who captained England in a World Cup finals – three years before Forster was born. Forster also has the benefit of Butcher assistant Maurice Malpas’ experience. Malpas of course played for Scotland at two World Cups, in 1986 and 1990.
“It’s pretty helpful for me personally,” said Forster. “They are experienced in management, played at a high level, both great players. The gaffer obviously played for England in the World Cup. For me as a defender, I’ll learn a lot from them.
“They have helped me individually with little things, what to do, what not to do, the best way to approach different situations. But, overall, we’re looking to press the game more now, be aggressive, be hard to beat – and play our attractive football in the opposition half.”
Forster is simply glad to have been handed some security at Hibs as he continues to make his way in the game after signing a one year deal in April. This new contract ties him to the club until 2016. “It was definitely an easy decision to make,” he said. “I signed my first deal before I’d even played any games for the first team. It’s been on the back burner for a wee bit now but, obviously, with the new manager coming in, I’ve played the last couple of games, played quite well, kept a couple of clean sheets, and it has just been done now.
“It’s a big lift that the new manager has done this,” he added. “He’s already shown a bit of faith with big [Michael] Nelson being back, yet keeping me in the team for the Ross County game. This is another big vote of confidence. It looks as if he believes in the youngsters, believes that, if you’re good enough, you’re old enough.”
Before he is introduced to the home fans this afternoon, Butcher will be present this morning as a headstone marking the final resting place of Dan McMichael, the last manager to win the Scottish Cup with Hibs in 1902, is unveiled in the Eastern Cemetery, which is a stone’s throw from Easter Road.
Previously, the legendary manager’s grave was unmarked but thanks to the efforts of St Patrick’s branch of the Hibernian Supporters’ Association, this has now been rectified. “Hopefully someone, in 111 years’ time, will put a headstone on my grave after I’ve won the Scottish Cup,” said Butcher. “That would be quite nice. But seriously, I’m proud to do this.”
Meanwhile, Isaac Osbourne insists no-one at Partick Thistle is pushing the panic button just yet as they aim to end a run of five successive defeats. The midfielder said: “There’s loads of time. If you look at our position in the table, it’s not great but it’s still a decent position. There are still a few teams behind us and the teams who are above us are within touching distance.
“It’s early enough that we can do something about it so the boys are not worrying.”