Being rejected by Manchester City made Steven Whittaker's career
Steven Whittaker has revealed how being knocked back by Manchester City sparked his football career into life.
Left devastated when told at the age of 15 the Citizens didn’t want him, the veteran Hibs player even applied for a job as an electrician and didn’t get that before being offered a deal by Hibs.
Now Whittaker has spent 20 years in the game with three Scottish Premier League titles, two Scottish Cup winners’ medals and four League Cup triumphs - the first of which came with Hibs - not to mention a UEFA League Cup final appearance and 31 Scotland caps.
Reflecting on a career which began in 2000, the 33-year-old said: “At 15 I wasn’t sure how things were going to go. I wanted to become a footballer and thought I’d be signing for Manchester City.
“I went down to sign with my parents. The scout took us down, with Joe Royle the manager at the time. I played in a match, we won 2-0 and I scored, so it wasn’t like I did anything wrong.
“But the contract just never happened. We came back up the road and got a letter a few days later saying ‘we’re not in a position to offer you a contract.’ Verbally they had done, so that was an early disappointment.
“But I wouldn’t change it for the world because of how it made me and what happened afterwards. That’s football and it’s how you cope with disappointment.
“I was determined from a young age I was going to play football.
“I’ll be honest, though, at that time I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I was playing for Hibs in the Initiative League on a Sunday after playing for Hutchie Vale on a Saturday, which wouldn’t happen these days.
“But I didn’t know what was going to happen. I was still at school and had chosen all my Highers at the time and went in for about two weeks at the start of the year.
“But I thought to myself: ‘what am I going to do now?’ I even went for a job interview to become an electrician. I can’t remember the firm or much about it, really, but I know I didn’t get the job!
“Then Hibs got in touch and offered me a year’s contract to go in and see how I’d get on. Within three months I’d signed a five-year deal.
“I signed in 2000 and my current contract expires in 2020. I joined Hibs at 16 and by the time my deal runs out I’ll have had a 20 year career. Who knows if I’ll make that 21 or 22?
“I signed for the club straight from school and I think that helped me. A few of the lads my age didn’t come in until they were 17. They stayed on at school another year to finish their exams. It turned out to be a good decision but at the time it was a big decision.”