‘He seemed pretty keen on me being involved’ - Steven Whittaker ready to prove value to Paul Heckingbottom
Veteran right-back Steven Whittaker hopes to show head coach Paul Heckingbottom what he can offer Hibs after injury sidelined him for the final three months of last season.
The 35-year old, entering the final year of his contract at Easter Road, suffered a hip injury in Heckingbottom’s first training session at the club after replacing head coach Neil Lennon in February.
Having played 23 games across all competitions up until that point, the setback couldn’t have come at a worse time for the former Scotland internationlist and ruled him out for the rest of the campaign.
With the Hibs players due to return for pre-season training on Thursday, Whittaker - currently in his second spell with the Leith club - is relishing the chance to finally impress the boss who led the club to a fifth-place finish last term.
Whittaker told the Sunday Mail: “I missed a couple of months after tearing my hip flexor - it was quite a bad one and a long rehab process. The team were doing well at that point too.
“And the frustrating thing was that it happened in the first training session under the new manager - not even a game.
“I’d played the three full 90 minutes previously when Eddie May was in charge and felt a wee niggle in the last ten nminutes against St Mirren.
“I thought it was just the loading of the games in such a short burst.
“No-one can choose when they get injured. I cant get too worked up about it happening just as the manager came in. But that’s what I faced.”
Even from the sidelines, Whittaker has been impressed by former Barnsley boss Heckingbottom, who will embark on his first full season when competitive action kicks off with a Betfred Cup group clash at Stirling Albion on Saturday, July 13. “The manager has been impressive. He’s a good coach, he’s approachable and it helps that we have a really good group at Hibs who are willing to learn and do the hard graft,” he said.
“At my stage of career, when I’m looking at the coaching side of things, I’ll learn plenty from him too - his information is great, how to run sessions, manage yourself and the club.
“The gaffer was quite clear I should look at getting through pre-season and seemed pretty keen on me still being involved, using my experience with the young boys.
“Hopefully I will have a part to play.”