Jordon Forster: I won't be leaving Hibs this time around
A year ago, Jordon Forster was desperate to escape Easter Road in search of first-team football, with just one appearance on the opening day of the season to his name.
A loan spell with English League Two side Plymouth granted him that wish, the big defender returning to Edinburgh in the summer to think long and hard about his future before committing to a new two-year deal at Easter Road.
Today the 23-year-old is still finding it difficult to find a regular starting place in Neil Lennon’s side, but in stark contract to 12 months ago, he’s adamant he won’t be going anywhere.
For at the back of his mind there is the lingering thought of if he hadn’t headed for the south coast of England he might, just might have been part of that historic Scottish Cup party back in May.
Now, with the Capital outfit in pole position to achieve their goal of winning promotion back to the Premiership, Forster is determined to hang around to enjoy the moment.
Although he’s made just 13 appearances, and only four of them from the first whistle, Forster said: “Last season I didn’t play much at all so I had to get out.
“But I won’t be asking away now, not with the chance to win this league. I made the mistake last year – no, not a mistake, the decision – to leave to play games, which I did.
“But I also missed something that was so massive for this club, winning the Scottish Cup. Those boys are legends now and part of me thinks if I hadn’t left ‘what if?’
“I feel I am a lot closer to playing than last year. We have a great chance to win the league and take the club back to where it should be – and I want to be part of that.”
The fact Forster has been restricted to so few outings has been the form of Darren McGregor and Paul Hanlon – the bed-rock of a Hibs defence which currently boasts the best record in Britain – and while he admits the lack of opportunity offered as a result is frustrating, he understands why that should be.
He said: “When I signed my new contract I was aware of the strength in depth we have at centre-back. Outside Celtic I think we have the strongest defence, so I knew it was always going to be difficult.
“Paul and Daz are the preferred pairing and Fonts [Liam Fontaine] plays in the three. It is frustrating, but I have been training well in my own opinion and for me that’s a big thing. As long as I am happy with what I am doing in training and when I do come on there’s not much I can do about it. It’s down to the manager.
“But I do feel as if I have done enough to give him some positive problems.”
Forster admitted he can draw comfort from the fact that a number of his cameo appearances from the bench have come to “shore things up” as Hibs have sought to see out difficult games, the latest instance being the 1-0 win at Dumbarton which led to them going six points clear at the top of the table.
He said: “I’ve spoken to the manager many times and something he has said is that he can rely on me, which is obviously a positive. Every player wants to play every minute of every game. I’m not doing that just now, but it does show he has faith in me.
“The boys at the back have been playing very well – their record speaks for itself. Take away penalties and it’s even better.
“I’m fortunate to be learning from these guys. They are experienced, good professionals. I am 23, which is reasonably young for a centre half, while they are a bit older.
“I’m not only learning but offering competition for places. I keep working hard and I’m a great believer in what’s for you won’t go by you.”
Forster’s appearance as Hibs began their defence of the cup against East Super League champions Bonnyrigg Rose was his first start since the beginning of October, skipper David Gray’s one match ban and Hanlon’s pelvic injury presenting him with the chance to play on the right of a back three.
Naturally he was, in true footballing parlance, “over the moon” to play the entire 90 minutes. He said: “I’m delighted to get any time on the pitch and perhaps coming on the week before against Dumbarton for the last ten minutes or so as we managed to hold on for the win helped earn me the nod against Bonnyrigg.
“The game at Tynecastle was could have been a tricky one for us. Had we not approached it properly it could have been a tough afternoon for us, but we did everything right and managed to make it a comfortable afternoon for us.
“Defending the Scottish Cup and what is ours is a massive thing, but ask any of the boys and the priority is getting back into the Premiership, that’s our main focus.”
The 8-1 mauling of Bonnyrigg was a signal of Hibs’ intent in regard to the cup, Forster completing the rout with his first goal in two-and-a-half years but, he revealed, he was more intent in righting a wrong, a penalty having been awarded against him when Rose striker Keiran McGachie took a tumble that allowed team-mate Dean Hoskins to claim what proved to be no more than a consolation for the junior side.
“I was furious at half-time,” said Forster, “In my eyes, no way was it a penalty. As a defender giving away a penalty – whether it was or not – can affect the game so I had to get it out of my head quickly.
“Although it wasn’t a penalty, I wanted to make up for the goal which came from it.”
Forster also made a winning debut for Hibs at Tynecastle, Ross Caldwell snatching the points with a last-minute goal nearly four years ago and, he admitted, he enjoys playing at the Gorgie ground, which could be hosting another Edinburgh derby next month provided Hearts win tonight’s replay against Raith Rovers.
He said: “It’s not our stadium, but it’s an enjoyable one to play in. The Hibs fans took it over a bit on Saturday and it was good to give them a good showing.
“It may have been against a lesser team, but there are still 11 men trying to stop you.”