Colin CALDERWOOD reckons David Wotherspoon can play “six or seven” different positions, but the Hibs kid is intent on simply nailing down just one he can call his own.
Wotherspoon has been a first-team regular since stepping up from the Easter Road outfit’s all-conquering Under-19 side, stepping back from midfield to establish himself as former manager John Hughes’ first choice at right back.
Since that first season in the top flight, however, Wotherspoon has found himself deployed in a variety of positions ranging from left wing to playing off a lone striker in addition to more familiar berths.
But, he believes, the Easter Road support saw him in his best position against Motherwell, patrolling the centre of midfield, a beat he’d filled for Billy Stark’s Scotland Under-21 side in their recent European qualifying matches against Luxembourg and Austria.
Now the Perth-born youngster is determined to persuade Calderwood that he’s more than capable of fulfilling that role in a green and white shirt, although he’s fully aware he faces competition from the likes of Victor Palsson, Richie Towell, Isaiah Osbourne, Martin Scott and Matt Thornhill.
He said: “I’ve been playing a bit of centre mid in training and the gaffer has said I can play several different positions for him, he’s said he likes me in six or seven positions.
“But I want to cement that place in the middle, to show him I can handle it in there with my aggression and passing ability and so hopefully get a regular start in that position.
“In the Under-19s I played left wing, then went to right back but I’ve been moving around all over the place. When I was younger I did play centre mid and I’d like to get back there.”
A second-half replacement against Motherwell, Wotherspoon was unable to help Calderwood’s side overcome the eighth-minute goal from Jamie Murphy which proved decisive but, even so, he insisted he enjoyed the experience.
He said: “I’d got a wee shot of playing there for the Under-21s and I was delighted to get the opportunity against Motherwell, being in there getting involved in everything that was happening.
“I really enjoyed the 45 minutes I got, it was just a shame about the result.”
However, it was Hibs’ first-half performance which has been exercising the minds of everyone at the club’s East Mains training centre this week rather than the outcome, as disappointing as it was to lose another game at home.
Calderwood described his side as being “a shadow” of what he believes a Hibs team should be throughout a lethargic opening 45 minutes, a period which he felt was as poor as he’s experienced in his first year as manager at Easter Road.
Wotherspoon wasn’t one to disagree with his gaffer’s assessment having watched his team-mates come off second best throughout that spell from the substitute’s bench.
Had it not been for the intervention of the woodwork and some smart goalkeeping from Graham Stack – a pattern which continued after the interval – Hibs could have been left really smarting but, as Wotherspoon insisted, as long as the Fir Park outfit’s lead remained slender, Calderwood’s players remained in contention. He said: “We were saying on the bench that as long as it stayed 1-0 we were still in the game, that there were 45 minutes more to be played.
“They had a free-kick right on half-time which was quite threatening but we managed to get away with it and we believed we had a chance.”
In truth, though, Hibs rarely looked like troubling Motherwell goalkeeper Darren Randolph in a display which left Calderwood demanding his players start producing the form he sees on the training ground on match days.
Again, he found no argument from Wotherspoon, who said: “The boss mentioned after the game that he thought we had too many ‘training ground players’, that we have to show that at the weekend but unfortunately hadn’t against Motherwell.
“Right from the start we looked sluggish, although we were a bit better in the second half. The manager’s team talk at half-time was to push forward a bit more. We left ourselves open a bit at the back as a result but I think we needed to take a chance to get back into the game.”
Wotherspoon, however, was at a loss to explain just why Hibs had failed to turn it on as might have been expected following a run of five matches unbeaten and a promising performance at Ibrox as Rangers brought that record to an end.
He said: “If you were to come down and watch us training every day you’d see it’s lively, very fast, that the quality and ability is there – we just didn’t show it at the weekend.
“Why should that be? The boys don’t go out afraid or scared of anything, they want to go and show they have got it. We’d been doing well and although we lost against Rangers we got plaudits for the way we had played and were looking to carry it on.
“Unfortunately we just didn’t show that level of performance again. The gaffer had shown faith in the players by going with the same starting XI again, I don’t think you could say there was anything wrong in that because they’d done so well, but unfortunately we did not get up and running in the first few minutes as we should have done.” Having negotiated September unbeaten, Hibs recognised this month was going to be a real test, the trip to Govan being followed by that visit from high-flying Motherwell, a visit to St Mirren and then a double-header, home and away, against Celtic in the Scottish Communities League Cup and then the SPL.
Agreeing a tough programme had become somewhat tougher, Wotherspoon said: “Rangers away was never going to be easy nor Motherwell, who have been flying, getting themselves into second place in the league and making the gap between them and Celtic even bigger with that win against us.
“Now we have a few more difficult games coming up but like every club which suffers a defeat all you can do is get back on the training ground, work hard and look to pick things up in your next game, which is what we’ll be doing when we go to St Mirren on Saturday.”