FOURTEEN years ago, David Wotherspoon cheered on St Johnstone against Uefa Cup rivals Monaco at a packed McDiarmid Park in his home town of Perth. Now the former Hibernian midfielder will get the chance to play on the continent with the Saints.
Out-of-contract Wotherspoon left the Easter Road outfit yesterday to sign a two-year deal with the Perth club he supported as a schoolboy and the 23-year-old is counting down to a Europa League debut against Crusaders or Rosenborg on 18 July.
Wotherspoon, a one-time Celtic youth player before spending seven years at Hibernian, admitted he is thrilled at the prospect of emulating his childhood heroes by playing in Europe for his local club. “I was at the game against Monaco in 1999 with my dad Ian and my brother, who is also Ian,” he recalled. “That Monaco match is one of my best football memories. It really was fantastic to see St Johnstone play against players like Fabien Barthez, David Trezeguet and all the other stars they had in that team. Saints got a [3-3] draw and watching games like that are what makes you want to play football.
“It’s great to think that I might play for the club in Europe now. It will be a real honour to play in the games coming up, but first I have to get settled in and work hard to show the manager I deserve to be in the team.”
Wotherspoon revealed his family and friends are thrilled by him clinching the move to Perth. “I’ve always wanted to sign for Saints so it’s a dream come true for me,” he continued. “My brother is a huge St Johnstone fan so he’ll also be delighted. I spoke to him last week about it and he was buzzing.
“My dad has been on the phone all summer asking what I was doing, but I hadn’t told him until now. The family will all be thrilled that it’s happened. Loads of my pals are Saints fans as well so they’ll be delighted too.
“I first heard about the club’s interest last week. I was interested in coming back home. I grew up supporting St Johnstone and started off here playing for the U-12s, so it’s great to be back.”
Wotherspoon was drafted in just days after Saints secured £40,000 from Ross County in the wake of Richard Brittain reneging on his pre-contract agreement with the Saints to stay in Dingwall and he revealed he sought out ex-Saint Liam Craig for advice after the midfielder made the opposite move to him from Perth to Hibs.
“I spoke to Liam at training on Monday and he told me that it was a great move for me. He loved his time here and said he couldn’t speak highly enough about the club. Liam said the people behind the scenes are great and said I’d love working with manager Tommy Wright.”
Wotherspoon missed out on Hibs’ Scottish Cup final clash with Celtic this season and the previous year’s final defeat by Hearts, but he stressed that those omissions did not taint his time in the capital. “Missing out on the cup finals was disappointing, but it didn’t sour things,” he said. “Hibs were great to me, they gave me my chance under [John] Yogi Hughes and I enjoyed every minute of playing for the club. But that’s all in the past now and I’m just looking forward.”
St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright welcomed the arrival of Wotherspoon in time for the Europa League clashes. “We’re delighted to get David signed up,” he said. “It has happened quickly because we didn’t think we’d be able to get him, but I spoke to him and it was obvious how much he wanted to sign for the club.
“He’s a St Johnstone fan and he played here as a kid, so [he] was genuinely excited about coming back. He’s got a lot of experience in the SPL and played a lot of Under-21 games for Scotland. David is someone I’ve always liked, he’s got a lot of ability and I think he’s perfect to fill that attacking midfield role.
“Although he can play in a few positions, I see him in that position. He’s capable of scoring goals from midfield and that’s something we’ll look to improve on.”