t’s been tough going for Jordon Forster and his team-mates over the past few months, but today the Hibs kid insisted the experiences of this season will drive him on the make sure he never endures another like it.
ITerry Butcher’s squad have found themselves battered from pillar to post as they’ve slid down the Scottish Premiership table, their hopes of a top-six finish having long evaporated to be replaced by a desperate fight to avoid being dragged into a play-off scrap.
Few, if any, within the Easter Road dressing room has escaped criticism, with youth seen as no excuse. But as Butcher’s players prepare for one final push to halt the slide and hold on to the seventh position they currently occupy, 20-year-old Forster believes that, amid the weekly onslaught of negative headlines, he and other youngsters will emerge all the stronger and better equipped for future seasons.
And he revealed how experienced team-mates such as Kevin Thomson have helped the kids cope. He said: “Kevin has been quite good with a lot of the young boys, talking about it all. It’s a hard position to face just now, all the negativity.
“But as much as we would rather not be in this position and be higher up the league, we need to try to absorb everything as young players, even the negative stuff and hopefully it will stand us in good stead for the rest of our careers.
“Personally, I feel it’s been a good season for me, playing a lot of games, learning new positions, but as a club it’s not been a great season. I’d like to think one day I can say this was the worst I will have had but that will only be the case if we go and do well next season. Right now, that’s a long way away.”
Butcher’s players, despite having won just one of their last 13 league games, travel to face St Mirren tomorrow still four points off the danger zone.
Joking he’d rather the play-off regulation had been pencilled in for next season, Forster agreed it had added excitement at a time when, with Hearts already relegated, the other bottom six sides would otherwise have been left facing five rather meaningless matches.
He said: “If it hadn’t been introduced we’d be safe but the chance of two coming up and two going down does make for a more exciting league. However, we are in this position and we only have ourselves to blame.
“One win in 13 is a poor record but if you analyse the games there have been things here and there – my disallowed goal against Hearts for instance – which have gone against us. I’m not saying the performances have been great, but there have been some decent displays and we know that in football things turn. One win and you can go on a run and we are confident we can go and win against anyone on our day.”
Forster agreed there would be no better time to begin that process than tomorrow, reckoning that much-needed win would not only give Butcher’s players a confidence boost, but deliver a psychological blow to rival sides. He said: “A club of Hibs’ size should be 100 per cent in the top half, pushing for second or third spot, especially without Rangers in the league. We are, though, in pole position as far as avoiding the play-off place is concerned, where I’m sure the other four clubs would rather be.
“We need to be going into the upcoming games, taking them by the scruff of the neck, winning them and putting things to bed. A win tomorrow would be terrific It would give us a good platform for the remaining games and psychologically I think it would be a massive blow to the other teams seeing the gap widen further.”
Nerves are sure to play a huge part over the coming weeks with each club, while concentrating on their own well-being, anxiously eyeing results from elsewhere. But just how things will play out, Forster isn’t quite certain.
He said: “Obviously every manager and team will have a different approach to the games but I don’t think people will go gung-ho and leave themselves open to being picked off. On the other hand, I also don’t believe teams will sit back and hope for a draw because, at the end of the day, we are all going to need wins. The old cliche of taking one game at a time couldn’t be more pertinent. Each passing game means there are fewer points available so three for us tomorrow would be huge. “We have to concentrate on ourselves, first and foremost, but once tomorrow’s match is over I’m sure the boys will be asking how the others have done and working out the implications as they affect us, that’s only human nature. But if we’ve won our game then it doesn’t really matter what happens elsewhere.”
The Buddies caused a huge shock last time out, coming from being 2-1 down with only minutes to play to beat Motherwell 3-2 and so put a huge dent in the Steelmen’s hopes of pipping Aberdeen to second spot and a tilt at Champions League qualification. But as much as he shared that surprise, Forster insisted Butcher’s players will make the journey tomorrow buoyed by the knowledge they’ve enjoyed a pretty decent record in Paisley over the course of the past couple of seasons.
He said: “It’s another game of football, 11 against 11, and we’ve proved before we can go to Paisley and do well.”