Hibs' Will Fish opens up on Hearts error as Manchester United loanee speaks on Ryan Porteous influence
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Few would choose to make a high-profile error inside ten minutes on their first start for a loan club at the ground of the team’s bitter rivals. But for Will Fish, that was exactly what happened when he was dispossessed by Cammy Devlin in the lead-up to the opening goal during the New Year Edinburgh derby between Hearts and Hibs at Tynecastle.
And yet since then he has taken over the central defensive role vacated by the departure of Ryan Porteous to Watford with consummate ease, excelling alongside Paul Hanlon and scoring his first senior goal – a powerful header in the 6-0 rout of Aberdeen last month. In three games with Fish at centre-back, Hibs have conceded just once, and even then it was a controversial goal in the 1-1 draw against Ross County in Dingwall.
In fairness to the Manchester United loanee, who only just turned 20 on Friday, he was being played out of position at right-back in Gorgie, as Lee Johnson opted for an unusual look to his team with Porteous suspended, but he has won plaudits for the way he has bounced back.
"It was tough at the time and I think we were going through a tough spell as a team, but it shows you how quickly football can change. You need to stick with it and there is always another game to put it right,” he says, as he previews the visit of Kilmarnock on cinch Premiership duty.
"Every player, especially at a young age, is going to experience something like that. It can’t be all plain sailing. Not in a good way obviously, but I’m glad it happened to me when it did.”
Fish had the support of his team-mates and coaching staff at Hibs, but also those down in Manchester at his parent club. He keeps in regular contact with several figures at Old Trafford but insists ‘they trust me and Hibs to keep on top of things’.
One person who has taken on a guiding role in Fish’s development is former Scotland midfielder Darren Fletcher, currently serving as United’s technical director. With nearly 500 English Premier League appearances under his belt and 80 international caps, he is a good person to listen to.
"He’s a top guy and he’s got a good footballing brain so he gives some good advice and it’s nice to get that from someone who has experienced it at the very top level. He knows the game very well,” Fish continues. “After every game United get all my individual clips and they’ll review that and give me a phone call and go through them with me.”
Hibs is Fish’s second loan spell, having had a brief stint at Stockport County in the National League last season, but he insists he never thought about cutting short his temporary stay in the Capital in search of regular games.
"It was always set in my head to stay until the end of the season because, where would I go? League One, League Two? I don’t think I would get a club like Hibs so I always happy anyway, even when game time wasn’t coming around as Ryan, Paul and Rocky Bushiri were playing well. You have to earn your chance and when it comes you have to take it,” he continues.
"This move was pretty much deadline day so it all happened very fast but as soon as I heard Hibs were interested I was delighted because I knew it was a top, top club with a good fanbase and a good platform to go and play my game.”
He won’t be drawn on whether he feels more players based in England should head north of the border to hone their skills but he outlines why he jumped at the chance to swap the Leigh Sports Village and under-23 football with the Red Devils for a shot at the Scottish top flight.
"Everyone is at different levels in their career and different pathways but for me I thought Scottish football was perfect in terms of the physically, a big league. It’s a lot of pressure on this club to get European football,” he points out.
Fish is a physically imposing player despite his tender years and isn’t often outmuscled by opponents or comes off second best in a fifty-fifty. But when he arrived at Hibs he was a good bit younger than the likes of the younger centre-backs in Porteous and Bushiri, who he watched closely in the early days of his time at the club.
"Porto was a good role model, the style of football he played is fairly similar to myself and considering he’s only three or four years older than me Watford was a good move for him. They have picked up a few good results, he’s a top player and I’m sure he’ll handle it fine.”
Many players might have baulked at the prospect of stepping up and replacing a boyhood Hibee with more than 150 appearances under his belt. Not Fish, however, who has seamlessly stepped into the sizeable gap left by the 23-year-old and played a key role in the side keeping up an unbeaten run that could stretch to six league games if they can avoid defeat against Kilmarnock.
"Porto was one of the main characters in the team, and since I’ve been here he was performing so well week in, week out. It’s a bit of pressure [stepping up to replace him] but it’s something I think I can handle. He’s a top player and I hope I’ve learned some stuff from him that I can take into my own game.”