By Lewis McKenzie
Derek Riordan expressed delight at getting back into football with York City – and thanked Hibs manager Alan Stubbs for helping him do so.
The former Hibs, Celtic and Scotland striker signed for the Minstermen in January, under Jackie McNamara and Simon Donnelly in the search for first team action after departing East Fife at the end of last season.
“It’s been good. I’ve enjoyed it here so far. It’s good to get back into the game and I knew Danny Galbraith before I came here so it’s half the battle once you know people”.
“I didn’t actually know Jackie or Simon before I came down here, other than from playing against them. But I’m enjoying working with them. All I need now is to get back playing games, try to get into the team and then stay there”.
After finding regular playing time limited over the past few seasons, Riordan jumped at the chance to join the English League 2 outfit and to get back onto the pitch:
“I haven’t set any targets individually, but I’m just dying to get back to playing games regularly. As a team, we just need to look to try and avoid relegation”.
“It’s brilliant just to be involved again and to look forward to games after a week of training. I’ve missed it over the past couple of years so it’s good to get that chance to be involved again”.
At the beginning of the season, Riordan trained with his former club Hibs, who are now pushing for promotion from the Championship, as well as chasing cup success:
“I think Alan Stubbs has done a brilliant job since he took over. I really admire him, he’s a nice guy and so are the assistant coaches there as well. I’m very thankful to him for letting me come in and train with them because that’s what got me fit – I was then lucky enough to come here”.
“He’s really turned the team around at Hibs. He’s got great options going forward and I think he’s done a brilliant job. Hopefully he can get them promoted this season and get a cup win under his belt as well”.
“Rangers dropping points was good for Hibs, even though they seem to do it with some difficulty and drew with Livingston, but I think they’ve got a strong enough squad to challenge for the title with Rangers and I think they can compete with the SPL teams”.
One SPL team Hibs will face are local rivals Hearts, a fixture Riordan is familiar with, having grown up watching them from the stand:
“Being a Hibs fan, I loved playing in the derbies. I won’t be able to watch the match as we have a game but I hope that Hibs can do it. I think Hibs ended up the stronger team in the last match during the second half”.
After defeating St Johnstone at Tynecastle, Hibs now have a league cup final tie against Ross County to look forward to and Riordan will know exactly what the Hibs players will be going through, having featured in one against Livingston for the club back in 2004:
“The preparation ahead of a cup final isn’t any different than for any other game. You always look forward to the big games and I certainly look forward to those occasions. A cup final is a massive game for Hibs. The last time they won a cup, Rob Jones was captain after I had moved to Celtic. But as a Hibs fan myself, it’s certainly a game you look forward to and hopefully they can do it”.
Riordan featured in a Hibs team full of talented young players at the time, including Scott Brown, Kevin Thomson, Steven Whittaker and Gary Caldwell. It was perhaps something of a golden era for the Easter Road club, and was a time where Hibs may have had their best chance at mounting a league challenge in years:
“We had a brilliant young team during my time at Hibs. If you’d kept them altogether, you’d have had a good chance at the title these days. We always gave teams a good go, including Rangers and Celtic who were very strong at the time”.
“But I think it just happens, where players move on to bigger clubs. But that was a very good team and I think that Hibs will find it hard to replicate that again, to have such a good group of players at the same time”.
One such player involved was Steven Fletcher, once linked with a move to Real Madrid, the time has now come for the striker to move abroad, after time in England at Burnley, Wolves and Sunderland, with Marseille choosing to sign him on loan until the end of the season. Riordan spent time abroad himself during his career, taking in a spell at Chinese side Shaanxi Chan-Ba in 2011.
However, it still remains a fairly irregular occurrence for British footballers to make the move overseas, with players in recent years having mixed fortunes when featuring for clubs abroad. Riordan, however, was delighted for his old team mate on making the move:
“I think sometimes there’s a bit of luck involved, depending on you going to the right club. No matter where you play, there are different styles that will suit you or certain managers will prefer you. But Fletcher has always been a good player”.
“He’s coped well as he’s got older, because he was very young when we were playing together at Hibs, though he’s always had the talent to do it”.
“I’m glad for him that he’s got the move, because he’s done it in the Premier League. It was a strange move to be honest, but I suppose that if he’s not playing and he has the chance to go to a big club like Marseille, then you’d expect him to take it if that’s what was there for him”.
Fletcher follows in the footsteps of Joey Barton in making a loan switch from the English Premier League to join Marseille
“It’ll be a bit difficult at first obviously, speaking to team-mates at first will probably be quite difficult initially, depending on who’s there with him.
“But every football team is roughly the same, as soon as you get to know everybody, you start to settle in a bit better. I think he’ll do well there and he’s scored a goal for them already. I like to look out for people that I’ve played with before”.