Jordon Forster’s burning desire to play regular football proved too strong in the end.
The 22-year-old Hibs academy graduate told the Evening News at the start of October, as he prepared for his latest return from injury, that he was confident he would go on to re-establish himself in Alan Stubbs’ defence.
Fast forward three-and-a half months, however, and Forster, who this week joined Plymouth Argyle on loan until the end of the season, knows he may have kicked his last ball for the club he joined in 2010. For all his undoubted desire, Hibs’ three most established centre-backs, Liam Fontaine, Paul Hanlon and Darren McGregor, have effectively blocked Forster’s path into the first team with their excellent form this season.
“When I came back from injury, I was fully focused on getting back into the team at Hibs,” Forster said. “But the more and more you don’t play, things creep into your head, and over the last five or six weeks, it became clear that I was out the picture and that I needed to go somewhere else.
“I’m a big boy, so I went to speak to the manager. I never went in and said ‘I should be playing every week’ because I know the boys who have been playing are all good players who have been doing really well. The manager was really good with me. He said ‘if you don’t play in the next month or two, come back and see me and we’ll try and work something out’. We’ve managed to do that and I’m grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to go down south.”
Forster insists he doesn’t know what the future holds beyond the end of the season when his contracts with both Plymouth and Hibs expire. The Easter Road club, who were initially of a mind to let him leave this month on a permanent basis, have offered him a new deal which would entitle them to compensation if he moves elsewhere in the summer. For now, Forster is focused only on making the most of an unlikely opportunity on England’s south-west coast with Derek Adams’ joint League Two leaders.
“I had four or five options, a few in Scotland and a few in England, and Plymouth was the most attractive,” he said. “It was a no-brainer. People will say ‘it’s only League Two’, but if you ask a lot of the Scottish boys outwith the top clubs like Celtic, they’d happily go to League One, which is the league Plymouth are trying to get into.
“I just want to play games and enjoy my football again because I’ve not played for a long time. It had become a bit of a drag, to be honest. I know that sounds like the wrong word, but it’s not been as enjoyable as it should be. I just want to do well at Plymouth and then reassess the situation closer to the summer. Apart from match fitness, I’m okay. I’ve been fit for a long time now and I’m desperate to get started.”
Although his last start for Hibs was in July, Forster insists his bond with Stubbs remains as strong as it was when he was playing regularly under him last season.
“Me and Alan Stubbs have a great relationship,” he said. “When he first came in, I played a lot but unfortunately I had injuries and when I fell out the team the boys who came in have done really well. I hold no grudges. The manager has made it clear I can phone him anytime while I’m down here. I’ve got a lot of time for him.”
Forster is available to make his debut against Stevenage on Saturday but the obvious question is how does he envisage forcing his way into a side that, like Hibs, appears to be in decent defensive nick?
“I spoke to Derek Adams before I came down and made my point clear to him,” he explained. “I told him I had other options on the table and, although they were maybe not as attractive as Plymouth, they were places I would play at. I didn’t want to go somewhere I’m not going to play again, and he did say I’ll get my chance at Plymouth, so hopefully that’s a good indication.”
Forster hopes the move to Devon will benefit him both on and off the park.
“It’ll be a good experience being out of my comfort zone,” he said. “I’ll need to grow up and learn how to live by myself. I’ll need to learn how to cook and do my washing because my girlfriend does all that for me just now. Because it’s only a loan move, my girlfriend hasn’t come down with me but she will come down every second week for a few days.
“I’ve been in a hotel for a few days but the club are going to get me settled into an apartment in the next week or so. I’ve only been in the dressing-room a few times but you can tell already that they’re a great bunch. I knew Gregg Wylde before I came down and the manager is obviously Scottish as well. You couldn’t get any further away from Edinburgh, but the manager has said that the Scottish boys get home now and again, so hopefully I’ll be able to get a flight up once or twice a month to see the family.”
Forster is reluctant to close the door entirely on his Hibs career just yet, although he knows that chapter of his life may have come to an end.
“I don’t want to say it’s the end at Hibs, but if, unfortunately, that’s how it turns out, I’d say the derbies would be my highlights,” he said. “My debut, the 2-1 game at Tynecastle, was a massive high point. I’d also pick out the New Year derby two years ago when Easter Road was a sell-out and also the derby at the end of last season when we beat them 2-0. That was one of the strongest games I played for me. The club have been massive for me and the fans have been absolutely fantastic. As an Edinburgh boy, they’ve always been supportive of me even when I’ve had form dips. I can only thank them for making my time at the club so pleasurable. Whenever I’m back in Edinburgh, I’ll try to get to the games and regardless of whether or not I’m there next season, the club will forever be in my heart.”