New Hibernian defender Jonathan Spector admits he had a grounding in the game that most players could only dream of.
From being spurred on by being described as ‘useless’ by legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson to being mentored by Rio Ferdinand and inspired by Cristiano Ronaldo.
The USA internationalist joined the Leith side last Friday on a deal until the end of the season and the 33-year-old is keen to get his career back on track following a injury-interrupted season in the MLS with Orlando City last year.
Spector first made the move to British football with United in 2003 and made a total of eight appearances – including two in the Champions League – for the club, all of them coming in the 2004/05 campaign.
He eventually moved to West Ham in 2006 before signing for Birmingham City five years later, but admits his time at Old Trafford shaped him as a player.
“My highlights were first and foremost signing for Manchester United, making my debut, playing in the Champions League with them,” said Spector.
“I have been incredibly fortunate to play with some of the best players who have ever played the game – and to learn from them.
“Being at Manchester United in particular, I wasn’t just learning from the manager and the coaching staff.
“It’s incredible how willing a lot of those players were to lend their expertise and help guide me on my career.
“Rio Ferdinand was one, another was Mikael Sylvestre, mainly because they were in the position I was playing in, centre-back.
“That’s something now, at my age, hopefully I can also do for the younger generation.”
There were also character-defining moments under then captain Roy Keane and boss Ferguson, including one following a reserve fixture against Middlesbrough.
“They were blunt, they were honest and those were things I respected. I remember I had been training and travelling with the first team.
“When I was playing in the reserves, there was one game, I think it was at Middlesbrough in midweek, and to be fair I had a poor game.
“I was playing against Adam Johnson who was flying at the time.
“I was back with the first team that weekend, but wasn’t on the bench for the game.
“The manager pulled me aside after the team talk and he said ‘Spector’. I said ‘yeah, boss’. ‘You were absolutely useless the other night’. I was like ‘yeah. I know, I had a really bad game. It won’t happen again’.
“That’s all he needed to say to me. I know he had a reputation for really getting into players, but he never did that with me.
“That’s something that struck me at the time. He knew how to get the best out of each individual.”
With eight games to go before the end of the Premiership campaign and Hibs closing in on a top-six place, Spector, who has not played since captaining Orlando in a goalless draw with Houston last September, is eager to make an immediate impact at Easter Road.
He added: “Don’t get me wrong, I’m here to play. That’s my target.
“Obviously there are talented players already here but all I can do is make the most of my opportunity when it comes and contribute to the team. If it’s a case of just pushing on other players then that’s what I’ll do.”