There were times last season when Jordon Forster felt like an outsider at a club he had been with since embarking on his professional career. Forced to head off on loan to Plymouth in search of regular first team football, he then watched, with his face up against the glass as his Hibernian colleagues made their mark on history by winning the Scottish Cup.
Back at Easter Road, he knows he still has a battle on his hands to wriggle into the starting line-up but, under Neil Lennon, he says he no longer feels like a bystander.
“He’s good with all the boys, he speaks during training and after training. As much as he is, in my eyes, quite an aggressive manager, he does everything in the right way, and he’s got a knack of saying things at the right time – good and bad. He’s been good with me. I speak to him quite a lot. He puts me on in the last five minutes of games when we’re winning 1-0, so, for me, it’s good because I know he trusts me. Hopefully the next stage is obviously starting games.
“As a player, you want to be playing, so I can’t be too happy that I’m sitting on the bench, albeit I’m coming on here and there.There’s not a lot I can do. The boys are playing well, we’ve got good players, and when your team’s winning and you’ve got a good squad it makes it good to be a part of – but it makes it a lot harder to get into the team.”
The door does not seem closed in the way it did last season under Lennon’s predecessor Alan Stubbs, though, according to Forster, who was speaking as Hibernian players signed up to help raise awareness of a national campaign to increase the number of Scots on the NHS Organ Donor Register.
“I would say when I was here last season I felt on the outside looking in. Not just me but for the other boys who weren’t playing, it was very much ‘we’re a team’. I think that’s one of the biggest things that’s disappeared from a year ago. It did feel like when you weren’t playing you weren’t part of the team.
“It wasn’t a divide, don’t get me wrong, but you were outside looking in. This season you’re a lot closer. I think anyone could step out of the team and anyone could go in and I don’t think there would be a massive difference. The squad’s really good and there’s a lot of depth to it.”
That has helped generate a run of results that has taken Hibs to the top of the Championship table with five wins out of five. “I think that’s behind the consistency this season,” said the 22-year-old. “If you look at the training today, it was really tough but in terms of the competitiveness, it’s night and day from the training this time last year. There’s a real edge. Every day you need to go out with the right attitude and train well because if you don’t, you get shown up.
“It’s hard and there’s a wee bit more pressure on a day-to-day basis, but I think it’s showing on a Saturday that the boys need to play well. If they don’t we’ve got the type of manager who will be happy to take someone out the team and put someone else in.”
He says the high intensity training could be seen as dangerous by some who are concerned about picking up injuries but Forster does not believe in worrying about what might happen.
“For me, that’s the best way. You can go through your life not wanting to do anything in case you hurt yourself. I don’t think you can live your life like that. The manager, without being stupid, likes everybody to be doing well. No-one holds back from tackles. God forbid there’s an injury, but there’s plenty of people ready to step in.”
One of four players to strip off in support of the ‘We Need Everybody’ campaign aimed at bolstering numbers on the Organ Donor Register, he says the fact the club is lending such public backing is a sign of how positive things are on and off the park these days.
“Hibs have always been a pretty good club for doing stuff like this, in the community and in schools and over the last year or so it has really got going.
“We are role models so it’s good for us to do this. But, I think it’s part of being a role model as a human being. Obviously footballers are in the limelight a wee bit more and it is good for kids and adults to see us doing stuff like this but, as a human being, I think if you stopped and thought about it, I doubt there would be any reason not to sign up and try to help.”
• The ‘We Need Everybody’ campaign aims to highlight the fact that anyone can be an organ donor, regardless of age, shape, size or ethnicity.
A person dies in the UK every day as they await an organ transplant, with 540 people in Scotland currently on the waiting list for a life-saving transplant.
Those in need often spend years enduring debilitating breathlessness, lethargy and long periods of dialysis and hospitalisation while waiting and hoping for a donor. But with only one per cent of deaths in Scotland happening in circumstances where the person is actually able to donate their organs the battle is on to try to build on the 43 per cent of the Scottish population who have signed up to the national register.
Hibs players and staff have now signed up. For more details on what it means to join the register or to add your details, go to: weneedeverybody.org