JORDON FORSTER has packed more into six first-team games than many players manage in an entire career: a derby triumph, a Scottish Cup final and, now, a first taste of European football.
However, in the same period, the 19-year-old has gone from the elation of beating Hearts at Tynecastle on his debut to the embarrassment of being in a Hibs side which now boasts the worst result in the Easter Road outfit’s 58-year European history.
It’s a scenario which sits as uneasily on the shoudlers of the young defender as any of manager Pat Fenlon’s more experienced players.
The 9-0 aggregate defeat in the second qualifying round of the Europa League by Swedish side Malmo also set a new low for Scottish clubs, eclipsing even the 12-4 hammering of Rangers by Eintracht Frankfurt in 1960.
Forster knows full well that, had everything gone to plan on Thursday, the life of Hibs legend Lawrie Reilly, the last of the Famous Five, would have been marked in appropriate style. Instead, the 16,000 fans who acknowledged Reilly’s death with a minute’s applause were subjected to a humiliation which possibly even surpassed the one inflicted by arch-rivals Hearts in the Scottish Cup final of 2012.
If 7-0 was a scoreline with which Hibs supporters had taunted their Capital rivals for the past 40 years, it has now taken on a new significance, and one which the Gorgie faithful will relish throwing in their faces when they make the short journey to Tynecastle for the second game of the new season.
Desite his tender years, Forster knows the ignominy of Thursday night will remain with every one of those who pulled on a green and white jersey for a long time to come but while he admitted he won’t forget it, the centre-half insisted that, along with the 3-0 Cup final defeat by Celtic at the end of last season, he’ll use it as motivation to ensure he’s back on those stages in future – but as a winner.
Branding the meek capitulation which followed Magnus Eriksson’s opening goal for the Swedes in the 21st minute as “unacceptable,” Forster vowed he and his Easter Road team-mates will learn from the most chastening of experiences. Adamant that the rhetoric claiming the tie wasn’t beyond them despite the events of seven days previously, was not unrealistic, Forster said: “We genuinely believed, 100 per cent, that we could pull those two goals back. It wasn’t as if we hadn’t created chances in Sweden, we had a few good chances in the game.
“We believed that if we got the first one then with the crowd behind us we could have gone on to win the game and gone through.”
Reality, though, struck home – and how – as Malmo raced into a four-goal lead by the interval, that blitz ensuring there were swathes of empty seats to greet the players on their return to the pitch as many of those who had turned up with such great hope got themselves off home early.
Three more goals were to follow to complete the rout and to leave many Hibs fans wondering just what the new SPFL holds for their team and questioning even at this point whether a top-six spot might be within the grasp of Fenlon’s players.
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall was one of a clutch of bosses and scouts present, the Fir Park outfit due in Edinburgh tomorrow week for the opening match although, along with his assistant Kenny Black, he and the others felt they’d seen enough long before the final whistle.
Today, Forster admitted he could understand the supporters’ apprehension but, at the same time, he vowed Hibs will present a totally different proposition.
He said: “Yes, the fans won’t be too confident but I know these guys, I work with them every day and I know we have quality players and I can assure them that come the next game we will be ready. Thursday night was not good enough, both as a team and individually, but we will be ready.
“Stuart McCall is a professional and he will understand we can’t play as badly as that against Motherwell.
“They are a different team to Malmo and the Scottish game is different to European football, but we have to work hard over the next week to recftify our mistakes.
“Any football player losing by such a margin is going to hurt massively and it’s going to hurt for a few days, but you cannot dwell on it too much. We have to be ready for the start of the season.
“It would have been nice to go through and dedicate it to Lawrie, a special player to this club, but football is a cruel game. We will learn from it but, first and foremost, we know that by far that was not good enough.
“We started well enough, but when we lost the first goal we crumbled as a team and when you play against a good side with good players they will punish you as they did.
“They are 16 or 17 games into their season, so they are sharp, but that’s no excuse for us.
“We should have put up a much better fight both home and away.
“The fans were incredible. That’s the busiest I have ever seen Easter Road. But unfortunately we could not do it for them and that’s what hurts the most. They turned out in their numbers, they believed like us that we could get through and obviously we have let them, ourselves and the manager down. We can only blame ourselves as a team.”
There was plenty to learn for everyone involved but, Forster insisted, as one of Fenlon’s younger players, he is ready to take everything on board as he strives to further his career.
He said: “Apart from some results, I’ve had quite a good start to my career in the first team, but ask any player and he will tell you results mean everything when you get to this level. It can mean keeping or losing a job in some cases.
“Obviously, we did not do well enough against Malmo – it was unacceptable in fact – but for me I have played in Europe, I’ve played in a cup final and I want to get back to more of them. Not only that – to get back to them and to start winning them.”