The arrival of Steven Whittaker will have an inspirational effect on Hibs’ dressing-room, according to former team-mate Kevin Thomson.
The versatile 33-year-old last week returned to his formative club on a three-year contract after leaving Norwich City.
Whittaker, who spent spent five years at Carrow Road following five years at Rangers in which he helped them reach a UEFA Cup final, accumulated 31 Scotland caps – 25 from the start – during his fruitful decade away from Easter Road.
Thomson believes his former Hibs and Rangers colleague will instantly command the respect of his new team-mates as a result of what he has already accomplished in his career.
“He’s a top professional and he should be an inspiration to pretty much every player at Hibs in the respect that most of them will not have had the career Whitty’s had,” Thomson told the Evening News. “I know how well he works on and off the pitch, and he’ll only enhance Hibs. With the experience and game knowledge and what he’ll bring to the dressing-room in terms of professionalism, he’ll be a really good signing.
“He’ll bring calmness and assurance to the defence, as well as leadership qualities. Although he’s not been a captain and he’s quite a quiet lad, he’s a leader on the pitch in the sense that he never lets you down. You get good players who can have ups and downs, but one of the reasons Whitty’s so good is that he’s so consistent.”
Although Hibs have an established core of defenders who have featured regularly over the last few years, Thomson is adamant that Whittaker, predominantly a full-back who can also play at centre-back or in midfield, will not be content to be a bit-part player.
“Whitty’s mindset will be to go in there and play week in, week out, which will put pressure on all the defenders, so that bodes well for the club,” he said. “It potentially doesn’t bode so well for whoever loses their place to him if he comes in and plays well, but at a big club like Hibs you need that level of competition.”
Thomson believes that Whittaker will return to Easter Road as a more refined player. He feels the fact that the veteran has largely avoided notable injuries throughout his career will stand him in good stead.
“I know he’s not played much football recently but he’s in good nick,” said Thomson. “Compared to the likes of myself and [their former Hibs team-mate] Scott [Brown], Whitty’s been really lucky injury-wise. I think he’s only really had about one hernia operation in about 14/15 years, so that should be a big help to him as an older player trying to prolong his career. He’s always been a big fit, strong boy – he’s naturally fit. I don’t see the fact he’s 33 being a problem for him playing back up here.
“The Hibs fans will remember him bombing up and down the line – I don’t know if he’ll be doing that as much as when he was at his peak, but his quality will still shine through. When I’ve seen him play for Scotland in the last few years, he’s not been bombing on as much as he did in his early years. He held his position a bit more, which is down to having more experience and game knowledge. Sometimes when you’re younger, you just run for the sake of running but as you get more experienced, you start to pick your runs and time them better by playing the percentages.”