Winger Ivan Sproule believes Hibernian are benefiting from competition for places as the Edinburgh club seek to retain their place at the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League this weekend.
A 2-1 victory over Dundee United last Sunday, coupled with Celtic's draw against St Johnstone, took Hibs two points clear at the SPL summit ahead of Saturday's trip to Dundee. Sproule has been a peripheral figure this campaign, but insists he is ready to take his place in the starting XI should his team-mates' performances dip.
Sproule, 31, said: "This season I've had to sit back and watch Paul Cairney and David Wotherspoon being fantastic; I can't say any other words about them. They've been great week-in, week-out.
"It's been hard. I've spoken to the manager (Pat Fenlon) and he knows my situation and I know his situation. I'm certainly not here to make up the numbers, the manager knows that. He knows I need to be playing games at my age.
"It's been difficult, but if any of those players slip, I'll be the first to come in and do a job. It's a squad game and it only takes somebody to have a bad month. Hopefully over the next few weeks I can keep coming off the bench and if not get a starting place."
The Northern Ireland international is in his second spell at Easter Road, with his contract due to expire at the end of the current campaign.
"I've trained harder than I've ever trained and that's all I can do," he added. "There are 11 boys starting in the team playing really well. But those 11 are looking over their shoulders at the boys looking to get in. That's what makes a strong squad and a good season's campaign."
Wotherspoon has perhaps epitomised Hibs' revival after two seasons of struggle. The former Scotland Under-21 midfielder is playing with a confidence that was previously lacking.
"There was a pressure here last year and it just didn't happen," Sproule added. "But this year you only have to look at his contribution to the team, with goals, assisting goals and his all-round general play. I can't go and knock on the gaffer's door, because he's on merit starting week-in, week-out because of his performances and the team's top of the league.
"If he wasn't playing well enough and he was in the team, I'd be the first one knocking on the gaffer's door. When you get older you can't be selfish, you have to look at the bigger picture and he and Paul both deserve to be in the team. Paul and David both know as soon as they slip I'll definitely be looking to get myself back in the team."
- Sports & Recreation
- Ivan Sproule
- Clydesdale Bank Premier League
- David Wotherspoon
- Dundee United