THE quality of football played by Hibernian in their League Cup tie against Dundee United persuaded Keith Watson to move on loan from Tannadice to Easter Road, the right-back revealed yesterday. Hibernian lost the tie on penalties, but Watson was sufficiently impressed by Stubbs’ team that, when told he was surplus to requirements at United, he did not hesitate in making a switch that he believes could be the start of a bright future for him.
“This is a great club with the set-up and the way they play,” the 25-year-old said. “I was in the stand for the cup game and they more than matched Dundee United that night.
“That was a cracking game, end-to-end stuff. The 90 minutes were superb and then I think both sides were knackered in extra-time. It was a really good game to watch. The United boys were impressed and thought Hibs were really good going forward. It was a really open game for the fans. So it’s a massive club and I’m happy to be here.”
Had he stayed on Tayside, Watson could have been contending for a place in United’s squad for today’s League Cup semi-final, but, at this stage of his career, he feels regular football is more important. “United are doing really well but the way it was going I was in and out of the team. I wasn’t playing as much as I would have liked.
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“So I went to the gaffer and said I want to be playing games. And when the chance to come to Hibs came up I jumped at it. I think I’m finished at Dundee United now. I’ve come here to get games and it’s a shop window for me now. I’m open to all options. But this is a great club and if I do well here and I get offered something here I would definitely consider it.”
Watson should go straight into Alan Stubbs’ team for the Championship match at home to Raith Rovers this afternoon, but he knows he faces a fight to hold on to the right-back’s jersey when David Gray is fit again after his groin operation. “David has done brilliantly this season,” he added. “He’s been playing really well and he’s been unlucky to have the injury.
“He’s close to being back now and I’ve been brought in to push him. And I’ll try my best for the club and see if I can keep my place in the team.”
Stubbs will be happy if those two push each other on to higher levels of play, and explained that he does not hold with the idea of having a starting player and a back-up man for each position. “I’ve said all along that when you look at a squad of players I don’t want a No 1 for a position and a No 2,” the manager said. “I want to have two No 1s, if that’s possible.
“David’s been outstanding for us this season, but, in football, injuries can happen and we were light in that position. And he [Watson] gives me another option at centre-back as well.
“I think he sees what we’re trying to achieve. I think he sees it as an opportunity and I think he likes the way we’re looking to try and play. And he’s ambitious. They’re all the boxes I want players to tick when they come here. He’s got nothing to prove to me. The only thing he’s got to prove is to himself.
“The reason I brought him here is because he’s a good player, so he just has to go and do what he’s good at.”
Stubbs added that right-back Callum Booth, who has been sent on loan to Partick Thistle, will not be offered a new contract at the end of the season. “Callum’s gone on loan and I think that will be it. It’s up to him to try and earn a contract now, at Partick or whatever club is watching.”