Terry Butcher today praised Tom Taiwo after the frozen-out Hibs star shook off speculation regarding his Easter Road future to answer his SOS call to play for the first time in two months.
Taiwo is one of the “gang of four” – the others being Kevin Thomson, Rowan Vine and Tim Clancy – who, it has been reported, have been told they can leave the Capital club, a claim which Butcher has denied.
And today he admitted Taiwo had “given me food for thought” following his performance against Celtic, one which, Butcher declared, typified the spirit of his team. And the Hibs boss insisted the 4-0 final scoreline champions Celtic enjoyed didn’t give a true reflection of the game,
Butcher was adamant the match had turned on two incidents when, with the Hoops leading through Kris Commons’ early goal, Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster pulled off a world-class save from Hibs kid Sam Stanton. Then there was referee Craig Thomson’s “bizarre” decision – in the eyes of the Hibs manager – to have judged Michael Nelson guilty of handball, leaving Virgil van Dijk to hammer home a free-kick.
Comforted by that two-goal cushion Celtic went on to notch up an 11th straight Scottish Premiership victory, a late goal from substitute Teemu Pukki and a Commons penalty masking the fact that, in Butcher’s estimation, Hibs had run the Glasgow side close for much of the second half.
With his side ravaged by injury and suspension, Butcher revealed he wasn’t able to name a team until the morning of the game as Owain Tudur Jones became the latest casualty, the victim of a tweaked hamstring in training the day before, Taiwo was pitched in for his first start since the Scottish Cup win over Ross County on November 30. Today Butcher said: “Tom had a terrific game, he came out the deep freeze, was defrosted quickly and I thought his attitude was excellent. All the boys out of the team have been spot-on, first-class.
“They always knew if we got injuries or suspensions they could be called upon. I did just that with Tom and what a shift he put in even if he ran out of juice at the end. I was very pleased with him and maybe that gives me food for thought. Tom was terrific, he typified the spirit of the team and I thought the more the game was progressing the better we were looking.
“It was just a shame a goal under those bizarre circumstances knocks the stuffing out of you which it did to us.”