LEARNING from Charlie Adam and Barry Ferguson in the high octane world of English football was an education Stephen Husband won’t forget. Now back in his native Fife, he is eager to put all the knowledge to the test and earn a contract with Dunfermline. He begins in earnest tomorrow, ironically against former club Hearts.
Husband underwent an operation on his hand on Tuesday but is ready to perform in a friendly against the team he left in 2010 to explore England. The experience down south was rather hard-hitting since he played more times during a month-long loan at Stockport County than he did during an entire two and a half years on Blackpool’s books. Yet Husband went there as a teenager to learn and improve.
As a midfielder, he had an ideal mentor in Adam before the Scotland internationalist’s £9million transfer from Blackpool to Liverpool. In his place came Ferguson, a former Scotland captain who carries a multitude of expertise from years at the top on both sides of the border.
Others like former Hearts striker Roman Bednar and ex-Hibs forward Stephen Dobbie also helped Husband glean a plethora of knowledge. At 21, it is now essential for his career development that he plays regularly.
A strong performance against his former club tomorrow would certainly increase the chances of a contract offer from Dunfermline. The Kelty-born player is back in familiar surroundings but the experience gained from Blackpool’s time in England’s Premier League and Championship may see him stand out from the crowd.
“I learned a lot from players I played with in England, rather than anyone I played against,” he told the Evening News. “Barry Ferguson is the most experienced guy I’ve played with. I watched Charlie Adam a lot, Stephen Dobbie came in at Blackpool and did well too. These are all proven players who are all doing well for themselves.
“I think I took more from them than I did playing against high-profile players in reserve games. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather have played every week for Blackpool. I thought my chance was better down in England and maybe I’ve been proved wrong but it didn’t stop me learning. I took the opportunity to gain experience and take tips from guys who have been there and done it.”
Husband’s career has almost come full circle as he prepares to face Hearts as a Dunfermline trialist. Jim Jefferies’ first task upon returning to Tynecastle as manager in January 2010 was to approve Husband’s transfer to Blackpool. He was on the first-team fringes at the time but with no competitive appearances. Now, the midfielder is back under Jefferies’ wing attempting to prove his worth at East End Park.
“It’s strange. I’ve spoken to Jim about it,” continued Husband. “He knew about me from reserve football when he was the Kilmarnock manager. I got a brief phone call from him when I was leaving Hearts to say good luck on the move to Blackpool. He couldn’t guarantee me anything so I thought my best option was down south. We’ve had a little chat about that but I don’t think anything would’ve changed my mind when I left Hearts. Even if he’d told me I was going to play every week, I wanted to go to Blackpool because I felt England was right for me. I thought it was a better opportunity down there.
“I managed to learn a lot from the players Ian Holloway brought in and from the way his team played.
“I’m just waiting to see what happens with Dunfermline. I’ve got a couple of teams down south interested. Whether I go down there or not will depend on Dunfermline. I had to wait and see whether they would be playing in the SPL or the First Division. Now that’s out of the way, I’ll be speaking to them in the next few days. I want something sorted by Monday because the English clubs I’m speaking to don’t start back till then.
“I’m looking forward to getting a game in, especially against Hearts. It’s been a while since I’ve seen some of the boys.
“Training with Dunfermline has been good. It’s pre-season so you know what it’s like, a lot of running and physical stuff. The Hearts boys will know that well with Jim Jefferies being their old manager. It’s been quite tough so we’re just looking forward to the games starting now. I’m just looking forward to getting back playing, that’s the most important thing for me.”
Regardless of the frustration he endured sitting in the stands at Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road while Adam, Ferguson and others were playing in the team, Husband has no regrets whatsoever about defecting to England. “Obviously I’m disappointed I didn’t play games but, in that situation, you can only look at the positives. I don’t dwell on the past too much, it’s been and gone for me now,” he said.
“I learned what I learned and I just get on with it now and take it to the next club that signs me. Whether that’s in England or Scotland depends on who can tell me what’s best for me. At the moment I’m enjoying my time at Dunfermline. I know a lot of the guys and it’s been easy to settle in there. I felt it took me a little bit of time to do that in England, and that didn’t help me.”
England gave Husband an apprenticeship few players can better. Now he wants to establish himself in a midfield engine room and begin showcasing his wealth of knowledge.