Jordon Forster may not have played in as many games as he would have liked this season, but the Hibs defender insists he has become a better player.
Having gone on loan to Plymouth Argyle for the second half of last season in search of the regular first-team football he was then being denied at Easter Road, Forster surprised some by agreeing a new two-year deal despite knowing the competition he would be facing for a place in Neil Lennon’s side.
Such is the quality of the defenders in Lennon’s squad, Forster believes no other team outwith Celtic could boast such riches with Hoops stopper Efe Ambrose arriving on loan to strengthen that area even further.
The 23-year-old said: “When I signed my contract, I knew it was going to be a tough season on a personal level. I knew it would be a difficult season. I spoke to the manager a couple of times last summer and he told me I would play, but not in every game.
“He said that, with the type of defender I am, I would play in different types of games. He was honest from day one.
“There are certain games I believe I should have started in, maybe after playing the previous game and winning. He had other ideas which is entirely up to him.
“His decisions have been justified by us winning the league but he’s been honest with me and given me the opportunity.”
Rumours of a possible return to Easter Road for former Hibs right back Steven Whittaker, while unsubstantiated, are, claimed Forster, an indication of the standard of player the club is capable of attracting even if such arrivals would make pinning down a place in the team even more difficult.
He said: “It’s hard enough to play as it is, but you have to relish players of that standard coming in.
“I know I am not playing every week but I’m becoming a better player through training with the guys here.
“I’ve learned a lot from all the guys: Darren McGregor in how he defends one-on-one, Efe and Paul [Hanlon] on the ball, Liam Fontaine’s leadership. I take bits from them all.
“I’ve probably learned the most from Daz because defending one-on-one in isolated situations is where I need to work hardest.”
Forster’s stint on the south coast of England robbed him of the chance of picking up a Scottish Cup winner’s medal and while he would have loved to have picked one up this season only to have that dream wrecked by Aberdeen a couple of weeks ago, getting his hands on the Championship trophy after today’s final game against St Mirren will more than help ease the pain.
But he and his team-mates need to lift their game as they seek to finish the season off in style against a team still battling to avoid relegation.
However, the fact Saints have something to play for will, he believes, help Lennon’s players.
He said: “It feels a bit like the last week of school, things are a bit more chilled out. A lot of people say the game takes care of itself but you’ve won the league and you know you are getting a trophy at the end of it all.
“So it’s a challenge within itself. Your professionalism needs to kick in, to forget the party to come as we don’t want to be presented with a trophy after a defeat.
“It helps that St Mirren have something to play for. They will come out and try to play so we’ll have to match that. Everyone has seen games where one team has won the league, the other team can’t move up or down and so it becomes a nothing game.
“But this is different, they have something massive to play for which should bring us out as well.”