A few weeks ago, Hibs kid David Gold was enjoying the trappings of footballing aristocracy as he turned out for Queens Park at Hampden.
Today, however, the boy from Niddrie has swapped the national stadium for the more austere surroundings of Cowdenbeath’s Central Park.
But, he insisted, he couldn’t be happier, his second loan spell of the season providing him with the regular first team football every player craves, a commodity he acknowledges would probably have been in short supply had he opted to remain at Easter Road where he’d undoubtedly have been pushed to oust any one of the lengthy list of midfielders at boss Terry Butcher’s disposal. However, while admitting the switch has proved something of a culture shock, going from the height of luxury offered in a home dressingroom which houses Gordon Strachan’s Scotland squad on international nights to the more cramped and basic changing rooms at the Fife club, Gold claimed it simply made him appreciate the finer things in life.
The 21-year-old said: “Of course it’s totally different. There’s the stock car track around the pitch for a start. Hampden was proper luxury, the experience of a lifetime, but not everywhere you go as a football player is going to be Hampden and as far as I am concerned it’s all about developing as a player.”
And that is exactly what Gold believes is happening after making the step up from League Two Queen’s Park, where he played 14 matches to the Championship where, this Saturday, he’ll get his first taste of a full-bloodied derby when Raith Rovers, Hibs’ Scottish Cup opponents the following Saturday, make the short trip up the road from Kirkcaldy.
The two sides from the Kingdom go into the match with entirely different agendas. The Blue Brazil, now managed by former Hibs assistant Jimmy Nicholl, are seeking to haul themselves away from the foot of the table, while Raith are looking to force their way into the play-off places and earn themselves the possibility of a shot at the Scottish Premiership.
If the previous two clashes between the clubs are anything to go by, the fans can expect something of a goal-rush, with a 4-3 victory for Grant Murray’s side early in the season in Cowdenbeath followed by a 3-3 draw at Stark’s Park in December. Add in the fact Gold and his new team-mates go into the weekend buoyed by a remarkable 4-3 victory over Hamilton which knocked the New Douglas Park outfit off the top of the table and that hope may well be realised.
A niggling knee injury forced Gold to miss the victory over the Accies, but he’s fit and raring to go having trained with Butcher’s squad at East Mains yesterday.
He said: “It was disappointing to miss that game, but I went along to watch as you can always learn something even if you aren’t playing and, as I have said, the Championship is a step up for me. It’s a highly competitive league with a lot of good sides in it and it’s a totally different experience for me.
“The boys did brilliantly through there. I don’t think even we could believe it when we went three up within half-an-hour and added a fourth a minute after the break. It all got a bit nervous, though, when Hamilton began to eat into that lead. We made if a bit difficult for ourselves, but the boys battled well and managed to hang on for a 4-3 win and three great points. Now we are all looking forward to the Fife derby. The boys haven’t said too much about it, but I’m sure I’ll hear more at training tomorrow night.
“I think it’s shaping up to be a good game. There’s been plenty of goals between the teams already this season. Raith are looking for a play-off place and we want to build on that win against Hamilton, especially as we are at home.
“And with someone like Kane [Hemmings, Cowdenbeath’s top scorer with 18 goals] in our side, I think we can be confident of scoring. Both him and Greg Stewart have been doing well for us, while the arrival of James Fowler from Kilmarnock on a short-term deal has helped. He’s got great experience, he’s a good talker, someone who organises things and, of course, he can play.
“For me, the Raith game is again going to be a new experience. I’ve played in plenty Edinburgh derbies against Hearts at various age levels and enjoyed a fairly good record against them in winning the East of Scotland Shield three times, knocking them out of the Scottish Cup twice and also beating them in the league. Even the youths derbies are passionate affairs, a real battle, but at first team level I’m sure there will be that added bit of intensity.”
Saturday’s match will also give Gold the chance to impress Butcher, who plans to take advantage of Hibs’ free weekend to complete his dossier on Raith, having already seen them in action against Livingston a couple of weeks ago.
Gold said: “When Jimmy Nicholl inquired about me, I had a chat with the gaffer who told me it would be a good move, one which would stand me in good stead and let him come to see me play, to see how I was doing in comparison to the rest of the boys.
“I knew game time would be pretty limited at Hibs and what you want as a player is 90 minutes every Saturday. It was a good opportunity which I hope is going to make me a better player, so I was more than happy to take it.”