BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Jordon Forster ended last season with a playoff final in front of 60,000 fans at Wembley as Plymouth’s promotion push went down to the wire – but the Hibs star insists that was nothing compared to the nerves of his cameo against Brondby.
The 22-year-old, whose Easter Road career looked over when he joined the Pilgrims on loan last term, entered the fray in Denmark during extra-time as the Hibees saw out a 1-0 win, only to suffer the agony of a Europa League exit on penalties.
Forster revealed he is not generally afflicted by tension, but concedes his stomach was churning as he prepared to make his competitive comeback for the Hibees, having signed a new two-year deal this summer.
It was a feeling he has not experienced since a whirlwind rise to prominence in May 2013, when he made his debut against Hearts at Tynecastle before facing Celtic in the Scottish Cup final two weeks later.
Forster said: “I was speaking to my family and a few of the boys and I told them coming on at Brondby I was more nervous than playing in the playoff final at Wembley.
“Parks [assistant manager, Garry Parker] told me ten minutes before I came on that I should be ready, and it was the first time I felt those butterflies for a really long time.
“I had my debut at Tynecastle and then two weeks later I had the Cup final against Celtic, it was a similar feeling to that. I’m really not that nervous a guy, so it was a weird feeling.
“But I went on and tried to keep things simple – going in at that stage of a game as the defender, you can only be the villain!
“It was great to come on in a game of that stature and, although going out was disappointing, it was a really positive performance. All the boys would have loved the chance to play against a big, big side in the next round [Hertha Berlin] but we can take a lot of confidence.”
Forster attributes his tension to the passion he has for Hibs and his determination to grasp a second-chance to cement himself as a first-team player at Easter Road.
While his face did not seem to fit under previous boss Alan Stubbs, new head coach Neil Lennon has been impressed by the impact made by the young defender and appears keen to afford him the chance to stake his claim.
Forster was superb in Sunday’s 1-0 win over Birmingham City, working alongside Liam Fontaine laudably to marshal a back-line including rookies Callum Crane and Aaron Dunsmore.
He continued: “I think those nerves had a lot to do with how much the club, the supporters and the boys in the dressing room mean to me.
“Three or four months ago I would probably have told you I would never play for Hibs again, but in football a day is a long time, let alone a few months. Things can turn around so quickly.
“The new manager has come in and been really positive with me, as he has with the rest of the squad and I think I’ve shown him I have a lot to offer with a positive to get 90 minutes against a good Birmingham team.”
And Forster is satisfied that he, and several of his fellow fringe stars, have given Lennon plenty to think about ahead of the Championship opener against Falkirk a week on Saturday.
He added: “I thought Craney [Callum Crane] was outstanding and Scott Martin was excellent in the middle of the park. They deserve massive credit and really took the opportunity.
“They have been training with the first team and have really done themselves justice in the last few weeks and that gives the manager something to think about.”