Hibs' Wotherspoon aims to beat boyhood heroes Saints

DAVID WOTHERSPOON'S family will all be rooting for him tomorrow as Hibs face St Johnstone – all except his older brother Ian who will be sitting among the away fans at Easter Road.

And today the 19-year-old admitted that, if he wasn't starring on the pitch, he could well have been one of those Saints supporters who will make the journey down from Perth. Born and bred in Bridge of Earn, Wotherspoon grew up a Saints fan, a frequent visitor to McDiarmid Park until his own football career began to take off.

And while he still retains that soft spot for his hometown club, Wotherspoon today insisted those loyalties will be pushed aside as John Hughes players bid to get back on the winning track following last weekend's bitter disappointment at Hamilton. He said: "I started going to McDiarmid Park when I was very young, seven or eight.

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"To be honest, at first it was just a day out at the weekend with the family but then you get into it.

"I've always supported them and even last season I managed to go and see them in the First Division a few times.

"My best memory, of course, was the UEFA Cup tie against Monaco in Perth.

"It was fantastic for a small club such as St Johnstone to be playing against a side which had players such as Fabian Barthez, David Trezegeut and Dado Prso and to see their style of play and passion for the game.

"My own heroes were guys like Simao, who was the big Saints star of that time, Nick Dasovic, Paul Kane and John O'Neil, all big players in that team."

By that point, however, Wotherspoon was taking his own first steps in football, going along to watch his brother play for Abernethy cubs. He said: "The coach would tell me to pull on a strip and sit on the bench even although I was really too young to play.

"Sometimes I got on although it was more a case of running around like a headless chicken just kicking the ball because I didn't really know what I was doing."

Playing soccer sevens at McDiarmid Park, however, resulted in Wotherspoon being spotted by Saints youth coach Alistair Stevenson, who now fills the same role at Easter Road and has been instrumental in nurturing the likes of Scott Brown, Kevin Thomson, Steven Whittaker, Steven Fletcher and now young midfielder Wotherspoon and the other kids from last season's highly successful Under-19 side who are now part of Hughes' first-team squad.

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While Stevenson headed for Hibs, Wotherspoon was soon on Celtic's radar, the youngster moving west before deciding at the age of 16 he'd stand a better chance of making the big time by being reunited with his early mentor in Edinburgh, a decision which has proved to be the right one for him.

Having quickly caught the eye of new boss Hughes, Wotherspoon found himself making his debut on the opening day of the season, claiming his first goal as Hibs came from behind to beat St Mirren 2-1.

A proud day for his watching family, all but brother Ian who opted, instead, to take in St Johnstone's 2-2 draw with Motherwell.

And it will be the same tomorrow following Ian's 22nd birthday celebrations today.

The Hibs kid said: "Ian is a season ticket holder at McDiarmid Park and, while he'll be at Easter Road tomorrow he'll be in the away end while my Dad, also Ian, my mum Sheila and the rest of the family will be in 'my' end."

However, as much as he'd like to spoil his brother's day out, Wotherspoon insisted he won't go looking for him if he is lucky enough to score, saying: "When you look what has happened to Adebayor after he scored against Arsenal last week you don't want to be accused of trying to incite the crowd.

"All I am hoping for is to be part of the team and to get the three points for Hibs.

"It's an important match for us after last weekend when, with Rangers and Celtic having dropped points, we passed up the chance to haul ourselves right up the table.

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"The way we had been playing we felt it was a good opportunity for us but it turned out to be one of those days.

"As a Saints fan I'm quite happy with the start they've made to the season, it's been pretty decent with only one defeat in four games while they've also been banging in the goals in the Co-operative Insurance Cup. I'm sure it will be a tough game and their boss Derek McInnes will have made a few notes after watching us at Hamilton but we need a win.

"We sat down and talked about it on Monday, there was no ranting and raving from the manager, he just let us know how disappointed he was in our performance. He made his point, told us to keep working hard and, to be fair you have seen a set of players working really hard in training this week and by kick-off tomorrow we'll be totally focused on this game."

Tomorrow's match will, Wotherspoon hopes, give him the chance to prove a point to Hughes having been left sitting on the bench at New Douglas Park. He said: "Of course, I was disappointed not to be involved but I'm just a young player looking to become a first-team regular.

" I have my feet on the ground and I'm ready to work hard, show the manager what I can do and earn my place in the team.

"If I do get the chance to play tomorrow, do well and help the team win then I can go to him and say he should have played me last week."

Tomorrow's match is, of course, the first leg of a double-header between the clubs with St Johnstone due back at Easter Road on Tuesday night on Co-operative Insurance Cup business but that, Wotherspoon insisted, isn't a matter for discussion until the dust settles in 24 hours time.

He said: "It is strange to be playing the same side twice in just a few days but it is important we get our heads screwed on , concentrate solely on taking three points tomorrow and that, hopefully, will help raise confidence going into the next one."