Patience game pays as Thicot finally sees action at Hibs under Yogi

STEVEN THICOT could hardly believe his ears as he heard his name being called, an urgent summons to report to the away dressing-room at Tannadice.

But the French star's surprise quickly turned to delight as he realised he was, at last, to enjoy a taste of the action, a first appearance under Hibs boss John Hughes halfway through the season and almost eight months since his last match.

Today, the 22-year-old admitted he was "like a wee boy" as he made his way from the pitch where he had been warming up with the rest of Hibs' substitutes during half-time as his long, long wait finally came to an end.

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Until referee Steve Conroy got the second half of the SPL clash with Dundee United underway, the closest Thicot had got was a seat on the bench, a position he'd occupied on 11 previous occasions during an increasingly frustrating season for him.

He said: "Every football player will tell you the most important day of the week is matchday and when you are not involved it's frustrating.

"When you are a substitute you know whether or not you will get the call depends on how the game is going. If your team needs to score it will be a striker who goes on but as a defender you know it will take something special like a red card or an injury for you to get your chance.

"And an injury isn't something you'd wish on any of your team-mates. It happens, of course, and you feel sorry when it does although it is part of the game. But I am not the kind of boy who wishes anyone to get hurt.

"But even when you are on the bench you have to remain focused on what is happening on the pitch."

Although fortified with the self-belief which saw him win the European Under-17 Championship with France, the former Nantes player admitted there were days when the situation he found himself in put him on a downer – but only for a few hours. He said: "I have lived and slept football all my life but there were times I asked myself questions as to the reasons I was not playing but, I think, that's normal.

"You have to keep working hard in training and keep believing in yourself, that you will get that chance. But I am not a robot, there were times I left my flat to come training and for some reason I was not 100 per cent focused and didn't do my best. But as soon as training was finished if I was not happy with what I had done I wanted to train right away to forget the poor session I'd just put in. I grew up with my parents and brothers telling me never to give up. I've always felt motivated but if I was ever in a bad mood it never lasted more than one day."

Given his predicament few would have blamed Thicot if he'd gone knocking Hughes' door demanding an explanation but, he insisted, that isn't his style.

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He said: "When you are a football player your answers come on the pitch. I've never gone banging on the door of the manager's office so why start now?

"The team was also doing well so it was always going to be so much harder to get into the side, I wasn't alone in that regard."

Thicot's opportunity to catch Hughes' eye finally came as the Hibs boss, his side a goal down to United, decided on a radical revamping of his formation, opting for three centre-backs even although that was a system his players hadn't practised in training. The softly-spoken star said: "I was surprised when I heard our kitman Tam McCourt calling my name at half-time at Tannadice. I was like a wee boy as soon as I was 100 per cent sure it was me he was shouting to, I could read my name on his lips.

"The gaffer told me what he was planning, where I'd be playing and I said that was okay. The 3-5-2 formation is one I'd played before although the last time I played it I broke my left ankle and was out for four months.

"But I didn't let that worry me. The gaffer told me not to put myself under any pressure, that I'd been waiting so long I should just go out and enjoy myself. It was like being handed a present and other than the scoreline I enjoyed the 45 minutes I got. For my first game in so long I was quite happy with myself. I know there were things I could do better but I was really happy with my performance."

Thicot wasn't the only one, Hughes agreeing by saying: "Steven hasn't been in the frame but he trains well, he looks after himself and he looked as if he had been in the team all season. He defended well, fought his corner and I was delighted with him."

Thicot, however, revealed he hasn't even given this Saturday's match with Hamilton a second thought. He said: "I'm not going to think about it. I've waited so long I don't want to push my luck and be disappointed.

"I'll just wait until I hear the team being named."

Changing face of Hibs' first team

PRIOR to Saturday's clash with Dundee United, Steven Thicot's last appearance for Hibs was the 2-1 defeat to Aberdeen on 24 May last year – Mixu Paatelainen's final match in charge.

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Only three other players involved at Pittodrie that day – Ian Murray, John Rankin and Derek Riordan – saw a piece of the action at Tannadice last weekend.

Aberdeen 2 (Miller, Mulgrew), Hibs 1 (Riordan).

Scottish Premier League, Pittodrie, 24 May, 2009

Hibs: Ma-Kalambay, Van Zanten, Jones (O'Brien 67), Murray, Chisholm, Rankin, Stevenson, Bamba, Thicot, Fletcher (Johansson 81), Riordan.