Jair Tavares explains Hibs number 10 shirt dilemma as he makes Martin Boyle promise

Squad numbers are, in modern football, a hot topic. There are entire blogs and social media accounts dedicated to appreciating teams in 2022 playing games with numbers 1-11 in the starting team.

Furious discussions take place over whether right-backs should ever really be allowed to wear the number 3 shirt, what numbers are appropriate for strikers, and don’t get them started on the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold wearing 66 for Liverpool.

It is perhaps this sporting discourse that prompted new Hibs winger Jair Tavares to think twice about taking the number 10 shirt.

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“The first time they offered me number 10 I rejected it. When I arrived they asked me if I wanted 23, but I don’t like that number,” he recalled.

“They asked me, if I had to choose a number, which one would I like? I like the number 11, but that’s occupied, so they said if I wanted I could have number 10.

“I said no; there’s too much responsibility to have that number. I’m new here and wearing number 10 would be a bit heavy!

“But the next day, I slept well, and I asked some friends about it. They all said the same thing: accept the number 10. So here I am.”

Derek Riordan, Russell Latapy, Alex Cropley, and more recently Martin Boyle have all worn number 10 for Hibs, so Tavares is only too aware of the expectation that comes with it.

Jair Tavares is eager to entertain fans, repay Lee Johnson's faith, and live up to the expectations associated with the number 10 shirt

“I know there are a lot of heroes here who wore the 10. That’s why I said no at first,” he admitted.

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“But, of course, Hibs would not have offered me the number if they didn’t have faith in me. I saw on Twitter that fans were writing the that guy who wore 10 before me, Martin Boyle, was so good.

“I’m here to represent him too – I’m here to represent all the number tens for Hibs.”

Tavares is not the first Portuguese player to represent Hibs – Filipe Morais and Ricardo Vaz Te got there first – but he will hope to have more of an impact than his compatriots after making the tough decision to leave boyhood club Benfica.

“It was an emotional decision to leave. I had been there since I was six years old,” he explained. “I will support them forever as they are in my heart and I will never forget what they did for me. So many years, so many moments.

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“But I needed to take a new step. I’d already played in the second league in Portugal but it’s not the same as here. I want to be a star. I want to leave my mark on football history. It was an important decision. I hope everyone here can help me like I’m here to help them.

“I’m here to make a mark, I’m here to improve and I’m really focused on this season because it’s important to me. I hope to bring happiness and smiles to the supporters. I dream of everyone singing my name.”

Tavares is eager to entertain the fans but also to repay Lee Johnson’s faith.

“He convinced me to come to Hibs and put a lot of trust in me,” the winger explained. “I believe the opportunity they have given me is a blessing and I’m here to help.”