Experienced Hibs campaigner discusses his future

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Steven Whittaker turns 36 in June and is the first to admit age is beginning to catch up with him on the pitch.

The Hibernian player’s ability to read the game is more refined, but he concedes his legs are unwilling to carry on him on lung-busting runs down the flank.

Whittaker has carved out a long and distinguished career, which has seen him win eight major domestic trophies with Rangers and amass Scotland 31 caps, mainly utilised at right back.

Now in his second spell at the Leith side, Whittaker feels more comfortable being deployed in the centre of the park, having started four of Hibs’ last seven matches in that position.

Indeed, the Edinburgh-born player accepts that his longevity in the game will be dependent on continuing to be deployed as a holding midfielder.

“I don’t really see myself as a right back at the stage of my career I’m at, I really need to play a more central role these days,” said Whittaker, who will be hoping to play against Ross County this evening.

“I played right back at the start of the season when the previous manager (Paul Heckingbottom) was in charge. That was mainly through injuries to Dave Gray and Tom James.

“I think centre mid is where I need to play going forward, you get a little bit more protection in the central areas of the park. 

“That suits me in the stage I’m at of my career.

“It’s having the ability to read the game from the central areas, you can be a little bit quicker in the mind rather than the body.

“We do high distances in there but not so much high speed running which you would do in the wider areas. 

“You’re not as powerful or as quick off the mark as what you were ten years younger.”

Whittaker’s contract expires at the end of the season and retirement is not in his thoughts, even if he does have one eye on transitioning into coaching.

He added: “My body is feeling okay. It maybe takes you a day or so to recover but I still feel like I’m in good enough shape to do a job for someone. 

“My contract is up this summer but there have been no talks yet.

“I’d like to be here, definitely – I still feel like I’m in good enough shape to keep going.

“Look at Kenny Miller, who has just retired – he is 40. David Weir, who I played with at Rangers, played until he was 40. Age is but a number. 

“The body will tell you when it is time to call it a day.”

Whittaker only made five league appearances during the first half of the campaign and was even utilised as the eyes in the stand by former head coach Paul Heckingbottom and current incumbent Ross.

The ex-Norwich City player was tasked with trying to identify any tactical patterns from his high vantage point before relaying that information to the dugout.

It was a role he enjoyed, even if his priority was to be out on the pitch.

He added: “Instead of just sitting watching the game for what it is you think a little bit more about it and the roles the boys are taking up.

“It all helps, tactics, formations – all these kind of things – it gives you a bigger picture.

“It wasn’t as though I was watching, thinking: ‘I’m not going to play’. I still had that belief that given the opportunity I could go on and do the job and I’ve managed to do that. 

“Do I see myself becoming a manager? Possibly, I think it’s something I’ll grow into. 

“I would like to do a bit of coaching and get comfortable on that side of it. “As a manager you need that first and foremost so I’d like more experience through that.”

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