What Hibs are getting in former Orlando City defender Jonathan Spector

Hibs completed the signing of former Manchester United, West Ham and Birmingham defender Jonathan Spector on Friday night following his release from MLS side Orlando City. Here’s what the Easter Road side can expect…

Sunday, 17th March 2019, 11:50 am
Updated Sunday, 17th March 2019, 11:57 am
Jonathan Spector plays the ball during an MLS clash between Orlando City SC and New York City FC at the Orlando City Stadium in March 2017
Jonathan Spector plays the ball during an MLS clash between Orlando City SC and New York City FC at the Orlando City Stadium in March 2017

Mr Versatile

A centre-back by trade (although he started life as a striker), Spector has filled in at left-back for West Ham as well as defensive midfield for the Hammers and Birmingham while the majority of his games for the Blues came at right-back. Orlando utilised Spector as a centre half, with the former US international starting a handful of games at left-back during an injury crisis.

With Ryan Porteous and Steven Whittaker currently sidelined for the foreseeable future, and on-loan Leicester defender Darnell Johnson nursing an ankle injury, Spector’s ability to fill any role in the backline as well as in front of the back four provides Hibs with some much-needed, experienced cover.

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Jonathan Spector keeps a close eye on Lionel Messi during a friendly match between the USA and Argentina in New Jersey, March 2011

He would also allow Hibs to operate with three at the back without sacrificing Mark Milligan from midfield and would be able to step in in the event of injury or suspension to Paul Hanlon or Darren McGregor.

He’s had his injuries

Orlando were tipped for greatness in the 2018 MLS season, with Spector captaining the side, but a series of injuries for the 33-year-old and his team-mates forced the Lions to endure a nightmare campaign. The former Manchester United kid played just 13 times, missing ten matches in the opening part of the season through concussion, while a muscle injury sidelined him for six games in July and early August.

A knee injury kept him out of action for a month in the 2017 season while he suffered a series of injuries that disrupted his spells at West Ham and Birmingham, including tearing a thigh muscle on two separate occasions with the latter.

However, prior to agreeing a short-term deal with Hibs, Spector was boosting his fitness levels at the club’s East Mains training complex and an extended period of time out will have helped his recovery.

He’s highly-rated and well-respected

Journalists covering Orlando City’s exploits in the 2017 and 2018 seasons spoke highly of Spector’s ability and what he brought to the team. Writing for The Maneland blog, Ben Miller said he felt the Lions’ defence “tended to look more settled” when Spector played, and that he “plays hard, smart soccer and makes the players around him better”.

Spector was reportedly the fourth-highest paid player at Orlando, earning a base salary of around £432,000 a year - about £8300 a week - rising to £478,000 with bonuses or “guaranteed compensation”. This put him on a higher base wage than former Arsenal and Manchester City defender Bacary Sagna and ex-Arsenal and Chelsea full-back Ashley Cole, hinting at how highly Orlando rated him.

Spector has worked under a string of well-known managers - Sir Alex Ferguson gave him his debut as a youngster at Manchester United, while Alan Pardew brought him to West Ham for around £500,000, where he was later coached by Alan Curbishley, Gianfranco Zola and Avram Grant.

Chris Hughton, current Brighton boss, took him to Birmingham and at international level he was part of squads picked by Bruce Arena, Bob Bradley and Jurgen Klinsmann.

He’s got plenty of experience

As well as spells in MLS and more than 250 appearances combined in the English Premier League and English Championship, Spector has European experience from his time at Birmingham and West Ham, appearing in the UEFA Cup and its successor the Europa League. He played in wins over Portuguese side Nacional, as well as wins over NK Maribor (twice), and Club Brugge.

On the international stage, Spector missed out on the 2006 World Cup but did help the USA to Gold Cup glory in 2007 and was part of the team that reached the final of the 2009 Confederations Cup before losing to Brazil in the final. He registered an assist - his second of the tournament - for Clint Dempsey’s opener.

He also featured in three of America’s 2010 World Cup qualifiers, but was an unused sub for all four matches in South Africa. His last involvement with the national team came in friendly matches against Brazil and Costa Rica in September and October 2015.

Stand-out moments

As mentioned, Spector won the Gold Cup in 2007 and a runners-up medal in the 2009 Confederations Cup with the US, but he also scored a memorable double for West Ham against former club Manchester United - his first goals in English football - in a 2010 League Cup quarter-final. Coincidentally, the United 'keeper was Spector's future Birmingham team-mate Tomas Kuszczak.

Spector was also a recipient of the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award during his time at Manchester United, following in the footsteps of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Wes Brown and Phil Neville.