A PERSISTENT rumour that Kevin Thomson has fallen out with Hibernian assistant manager Maurice Malpas is without foundation, the midfielder said yesterday.
Thomson has hardly featured in the Hibs team since manager Terry Butcher and Malpas arrived from Inverness, partly because of a nagging injury but primarily, it seems, because the new boss has opted for a higher tempo of play than the 29-year-old is suited to. Given the player’s undoubted ability, however, speculation has grown about what he might have done to fall out of favour.
According to Thomson himself, the answer to that is: nothing. He is due to resume training next week after being out of action with a calf strain, and is confident that, once fit again, he still has a lot to offer the club.
“I’m a respectful lad,” Thomson said yesterday at a press conference to publicise Hibs’ William Hill Scottish Cup tie at home to Raith Rovers on Saturday. “People who know me know I’m one of the first in in the morning and one of the last to leave. I work hard and I have always based my career on trying to be the best I can.
“There is no issue with the manager or Mo. I get on really well with Mo. I worked with him with the Scotland under-21s.
“I did hear there was something on the internet suggesting me and Mo had a bust-up on the training field. That is laughable, to be honest. These things go around when players are not in the groove and not involved – fans want to know answers and the reasoning behind them. But there is no reasoning. The manager picks the team and, unfortunately, I’ve not been in it.
“Myself and Mo didn’t have a laugh or anything about it. I don’t know what Mo is like with computers – my bet would be he’s not really interested in the internet. So we didn’t have a joke. It was actually [Hibs captain] Liam Craig that told me it had been on the internet. I’m not one for Twitter or reading the papers.
“The manager is the manager – he picks the team and I respect that. And I am what I am as a player. I felt I did well at the start of the season and I felt my personal form was good.
“I haven’t played much football since the manager came in, but I’m not throwing my toys out of the pram. I’m here working hard. I have always felt I have the ability to play at the club, and fingers crossed I’ll get an opportunity in the near future.”
Thomson’s contract runs out in the summer, but although he is young enough and gifted enough to be able to play on in the SPFL for several years yet, his chances of doing so with Hibs appear slim.
Butcher has identified a need for his team to be more assertive, pressing higher up the pitch and abandoning the more deliberate approach favoured by his predecessor, Pat Fenlon, and even at his best Thomson has not really been suited to that style. Especially given the fact that three players came in during last month’s transfer window, he is well aware that he is not foremost in his manager’s thoughts.
“I had limited opportunities previous to him bringing in those players, so I would imagine my opportunities are going to be even more limited. But I’ve never hidden the fact I want to play for the club. I feel I can contribute a great deal to the team, and I’ll keep working hard to try and push my way into his plans.
“I suppose I’ve just got to work hard. There have been other boys who have not featured much and then come in, so hopefully in training he’ll see my quality and give me an opportunity to play in games.
“I am quite willing to play in the under-20s and East of Scotland games; I’m not too big for my boots. I’m willing to stick my neck on the line to prove I’m good enough to play in the team.
“I came back to the club because I love this club,” he continued, referring to his return to Easter Road, initially for no pay, last February. “And if it had been another club I might have tried to push a few doors down to get away. I look at this club and I see a lot of good youngsters. I feel I’m an experienced player and I’d like to be here and hopefully help them have the career I have had.
“I want to play, like everyone else wants to. If I was 35 it might be a wee bit different, but I’m 29 and I feel I can still contribute a great deal to the team like I was at the start of the season. There is still plenty of hunger and desire to be the best I can be.
“I am willing to play reserve games, do extra training and whatever it takes to get into the team. And hopefully these things will impress the manager and I will get an opportunity to play.”
Even if he does have to leave in the summer, Thomson hopes that before then he can still play some sort of role in his club’s cup run – though that, of course, would depend on their getting past Raith on Saturday, which he knows will be no easy task. “I actually read the other day that in eight fixtures over the last 50-60 years there has only been one victory for Hibs. So it’s going to be a difficult game. I have my fingers crossed the boys will get through and I can hopefully play a part in the future rounds.
“There have been a couple of poor results recently and we had a harsh result [a 4-0 defeat] against Celtic. A few of the younger players have received plaudits along the way. They need to jump back on the horse and get going again, and there’s no better way to do it than by beating Raith at Easter Road and progressing to the next round.”