Steven Whittaker hailed as Hibs legend as Ivan Sproule explains qualities of 'the big German'
The right back has been released by Hibs with his contract up and old pal Ivan Sproule insists he's a club legend.by Scott Burns, https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/authors/scott-burns/
Steven Whittaker may be about to leave Easter Road for a second time but Ivan Sproule is adamant he will forever be a Hibs legend.
Hibees boss Jack Ross confirmed this week the former Scotland international was one of several players who won’t be have their contracts renewed.
Whittaker came through the ranks at the Leith club with the pinnacle coming when winning the 2006 League Cup after a 5-1 hammering of Kilmarnock.
That helped him earn a move to Rangers, then Norwich before he returned home for a second spell three years ago.
Sproule, a team-mate in that 2006-07 League Cup winning side, said: “Steven has won a cup, earned his stripes at Hibs and can class himself a legend.
“The team who also went on to win the Scottish Cup are definitely legends.
“Steven was part of the League Cup winning team and has been a great servant to Hibs. It was a special day winning the League Cup.
“The last major trophy before that was the Skol Cup and it had been a long time since Hibs had won anything.
“There are many great players who have played for Hibs that have not won anything, that is something you can’t take away from Steven and the team we were in.
“We created our own bit of history at the club.
“I am sure any time he goes back to the club the door will be held open and he will be warmly welcomed.”
The 35-year-old has still to confirm whether he will play on or hang up his boots but Sproule knows that whatever he does he can look back on his career with great pride.
Whittaker graduated from the Hibs youth ranks with the likes of Scott Brown and Kevin Thomson before he won a big-money move to Rangers and played in a UEFA Cup final.
He was also capped 31 times for Scotland.
Sproule, right, said: “Steven is one of the best right-backs in Scotland over the last 15 years. He came through with the likes of Scott Brown, Kevin Thomson and Garry O’Connor and they were a talented group of lads.
“You can look at the careers that all four had and the level they have played at or are still playing at and that tells you it all.
“Steven won a trophy at Hibs, went on to win silverware at Rangers and play in a UEFA Cup final and then he played in England with Norwich before he returned to Hibs.
“I think it is fair to say he has had a stellar career…so far!” Sproule won his move to Bristol City in 2007 and Whittaker headed to Rangers but Sproule always believed his team-mate was destined for the top.
He said: “Steven was the right-back and I was the right winger. We used to call him “the big German” because he is tall and athletic and built like a German.
“We used to have a laugh because there weren’t too many full-backs who could overlap me but Steven certainly tried.
“He certainly made my game better and he was a player I trusted and I hope I helped him. We both left Hibs in 2007 and I think our partnership helped us both massively.
“Whenever I played with him the word that comes to mind was professional, on and off the park.
“He was dedicated and he always had ambitions to go all the way to the very top.”
Sproule knows Whittaker’s affection for Hibs will never leave him and he wouldn’t be surprised to see him return there as a coach.
The Northern Irishman said: “Steven also came back to Hibs, like myself, for a second spell. Why did we want to go back? Because we love the club.
“Steven has an attachment and affiliation to Hibs. We had a League Cup winning reunion a few years ago and he was very much a central figure.
“I hadn’t seen him for a while but you could see the feeling he has for Hibs and even now he’s been released that won’t leave him.
“I am sure Hibs are a team he will go back and support.
“He is also an intelligent guy and if he was to go into coaching I would not rule out him being back at Hibs in that capacity.”