Keith Watson is open to the notion of a making his move to Hibs permanent after conceding that his 11-year stay at Dundee United is coming to an end.
The right-back, who came through the ranks at Tannadice, had struggled to command a regular starting place in Jackie McNamara’s high-flying side this season and, with his contract up in the summer, his loan move to Easter Road has effectively signalled the end of his time as a United player. “I think I’m finished at Dundee United now,” he said. “I have come here to get games and it’s a shop window for me now. I am open to all options.
“But this is a great club and if I do well here and I get offered something here I would definitely consider it.
“It’s hard leaving United after spending so long there, but good in a way because I’ve always thought I didn’t want to stay at the one club all my life.
“I fancied a change and when I found out Hibs were interested I was delighted. I’ve been at United since I was 14 and have grown up with all the boys so when I said my goodbyes the other day it was hard. But I look at it as a positive just to go on and I am looking forward to what happens next.
“It’s obviously all about Hibs now for me and experiencing something different. I’m enjoying it and I can’t wait to get on the pitch and work hard and hopefully go on and do well.”
If Watson had stayed at Tannadice, he would have been at Hampden today potentially playing a part in United’s League Cup semi-final against Aberdeen. However, he explained that he needed to get out of Tannadice to get regular action.
“United are doing really well but the way it was going I was in and out of the team,” he said. “I wasn’t playing as much as I would have liked, so I went to the gaffer and said I want to be playing games. When the chance to come to Hibs came up I jumped at it.”
Watson is poised to make his Hibs debut in today’s Championship match at home to Raith Rovers. However, with regular right-back and deputy captain David Gray closing in on a return to action following groin surgery, Watson will soon find himself vying for a starting berth with one of the best players in the Championship this season. “David has done brilliantly this season, he’s been playing really well,” said Watson. “He’s been unlucky to have the injury but he’s close to being back now and I have been brought in to push him. I’ll try my best for the club and see if I can keep my place in the team.”
Memories of Hibs’ stirring League Cup quarter-final tie against United in October helped shape Watson’s decision to move to Easter Road. The full-back watched from the stand as the two sides served up a 3-3 thriller before United eventually prevailed on penalties to reach today’s semi-final. Watson admits he couldn’t fail to be impressed by his new side as they went toe-to-toe with his parent club.
“I was in the stand for the cup game and they more than matched Dundee United that night,” he recalls. “That was a cracking game that night, it was end-to-end stuff. The 90 minutes were superb and then I think both sides were knackered in extra-time. It was a really good game to watch. The United boys were impressed and thought Hibs were really good going forward. It was a really open game for the fans.
“I didn’t need much persuasion to come here. It’s a massive club, with a fantastic training ground – there’s not many as good as his. The stadium is excellent, they’ve got a great fan base – it was an easy decision.
“There are also some familiar faces here. I grew up playing with Scotty Allan in the youths. I know Scotty Robertson, we won the Scottish Cup together at United. And Farid [El Alagui] was at Tannadice last season. It’s always nice knowing a few boys before you come in.”
Head coach Alan Stubbs is delighted to have Watson on board. “He brings what I’ve tried to do with all my signings and that is quality. He’s the type of player that is going to provide competition for places.
“I’ve said all along that when you look at a squad of players I don’t want a number one for a position and a number two. I want to have two number ones, if that’s possible.
“David’s been outstanding for us this season but, in football, injuries can happen and we were light in that position. He gives me another option at centre-back as well. I’d seen him at Kilmarnock earlier on in the season when I watched Dundee United and I’d spoken to Jackie McNamara a few times. We got an inkling there could be some movement on it and it all happened very quickly from there.”