THERE’s nothing Hibs fans would love better than a return to the good old days, when the Famous Five dazzled and the club won league titles.
Those halcyon times remain a long way off but in one of his players Terry Butcher does see something of those gentlemen players and the wing wizardry of their day. New signing Duncan Watmore was one of the few positives in a performance riddled with negatives last weekend and the Hibs boss believes he will continue to impress throughout his loan spell from Sunderland and beyond.
“He’s an honest throwback. You expect to see him in black and white, wearing the long sleeves and old boots, just like Stanley Matthews. That is a high analogy but he reminds me of someone like that, or maybe a Jinky Johnstone at Celtic. He likes to get the ball and go in and have a go at people. He’s that kind of throwback, which is great, and I’m glad he is here because he gives us that outlet and that refreshing honesty and he can go past people.”
In his debut, in the Scottish Cup defeat to Raith Rovers, Watmore was the victim of some solid tackling at best and some rash challenges at worst. It means he sat out some training this week as his bruised foot was given time to heal but he will be back in the team against Ross County tomorrow as Hibs try to put a halt to their recent winless run and close the gap on the top six, while putting some extra space between themselves and the play-off slot.
“He’s just a guy who has no histrionics, he doesn’t pull his socks up over his knees, there’s no fancy boots or fancy hairstyles or tattoos that you can see, nothing obvious down his sleeves or his hands and he is just a lovely boy,” Butcher added. “You’d love him as a son. He is a throwback to the old style, honest, genuine wingers, ‘Just give me a ball and I’ll go and take people on’.
“It is refreshing because you see a lot of the players now, especially in the top flight, who have all these different things, the earrings and nose rings and all those kind of things; tattoos, and other things but he is nothing like that.
“I think he’s got a very bright future. He wants to learn, he is quiet, studious, gets on with it, is no trouble, and a perfect professional. So I think he has a very bright future. I can’t see him with an earring or tattoos, he doesn’t strike me as the kind of boy who’s going to be like that. Perhaps he will surprise me but I’ve spoken to his father as well and he is very grounded and has a history in the game as well and knows what it is like. Duncan is just a lovely kid and so different from the modern footballer, in many aspects. Not so much here because we have some very honest, genuine boys here too but I’m pretty sure if he got a mullet haircut or a goatee or big tattoo his dad would cuff him over the head or give him a slap!”
Making further comparisons to the likes of Chris Waddle and Gordon Strachan, Butcher undoubtedly believes they have borrowed a gem who will eventually return to the Premiership and establish himself at the top of the game.
“I saw him play for Sunderland I was like, ‘Wow, is he going to last the game’ because of the energy he’s got. But on Saturday he was out on his feet but still kept going and still kept going.
“I think it was a bit of a shock for him, the game and intensity of some of the tackles were a shock and he has not trained this week because of those bruises but he’s a game boy and he wants to be back out there. Players that dribble the ball and want to go past you, they do end up getting kicked. I would not like players to skip past me, inside or outside, I would leave a leg in there somewhere – that’s for sure.”
An interested spectator in the stands last week, Ross County manager Derek Adams will know what to expect from the January signing and will have made plans to curtail him but Butcher believes his teenage blast from the past can cope with whatever is thrown at him.
“He’s a boy that will keep coming back for more, he is a player that can unlock defences and we want to see more of that from him and from other players. I’m not going to make any pleas to referees, they call it as they see it.
“The thing about Duncan is that he will pick himself up, there is no histrionics. He is an old-fashioned winger and at only 19, he is a throwback to the past and that’s very exciting.”