Adam Eckersley intends moving to America when his short-term Hibs contract expires in January.
In an exclusive Evening News interview, the defender revealed he is in advanced talks with a club in the United States and plans to end his career there.
Fans on both sides of Edinburgh’s footballing divide were caught by surprise on Friday when Hibs announced Eckersley’s signing – four months after he was released by rivals Hearts. The 30-year-old left Tynecastle in May and has since undergone two knee operations.
He described the move to Easter Road as a “perfect fit” because he is eager to return to action and knows Edinburgh well after helping Hearts win the Championship title last season. He is also aware of the increased pressure and attention being a former Hearts player moving across the city.
His Hibs contract runs until January 10, but he has dismissed any prospect of extending his stay beyond that date. He plans to move his wife and family across the Atlantic Ocean after New Year. Eckersley’s intention upon being released by Hearts in May was always to head to America and play out the remainder of his career in the MLS.
He expressed gratitude to Hibs for offering a short-term deal which suits both club and player, and hopes to be fit enough to don the green and white shirt in two or three weeks’ time. He stressed he will give everything for the cause at Easter Road.
“I left Hearts at the end of last season and had to have an operation so I had to wait 12 weeks,” said Eckersley. “I was getting a few offers from clubs so it’s not like I was cut adrift or anything, but I couldn’t take them up because my knee wasn’t ready. I had another operation on my knee two weeks ago to make sure it was right. It’s feeling good now.
“Hibs called me up at the start of last week with a view to signing until January. That worked out perfectly for me because my plan all along was to wait it out until January and go to a club in America. Right now, I’m in advanced talks with a team over there. When I left Hearts, that’s why I didn’t sign for anybody. I wanted to see where this American thing was going.
“The season over there doesn’t finish until October or November so that’s why I have to wait a few months. I really do want to to go there in January so I was really happy to agree a deal with Hibs until then. Like I always do, I’ll give it my all for them whenever I’m on the pitch and I’ll be 100 per cent committed.”
Eckersley’s younger brother, Richard, spent three years of his career in the MLS between 2011 and 2014, playing with Toronto and New York Red Bulls. He was most recently on trial at Swindon Town. He hopes to make his stay in America permanent but knows he must first focus on playing matches regularly at Hibs.
The Manchester-born defender is familiar with James Keatings from last season’s squad at Tynecastle and is happy to be heading back to Edinburgh. “I know Edinburgh, it’s a home from home really. It’s perfect for me to go back,” he continued. “I know a few of the guys at Hibs as well so the move suited them and it suited me. The timing of it was ideal. America has always been in my plan and that’s why I held off.”
Hearts fans are unlikely to grudge Eckersley a move across the city after he became a popular figure in Gorgie last year. He only spent a season in maroon but was regarded as a bit of a cult hero after a series of commanding displays. His release – revealed first in the Evening News – was a genuine shock.
“First of all, I need to thank Hearts for last year. They were fantastic with me. Football turns in circles and sometimes you’ve got to do what’s best for your situation. If a club has come in offering the perfect situation, even if it is a rival club, you have to do what’s best for you and your family.
“I thought I could sit it out and wait after leaving Hearts but I’m actually itching to get back playing. Hibs offered me a chance to go in there and get treatment on my knee. Hopefully, I’ll be back on the pitch in two or three weeks so it’s a perfect scenario. Sometimes you have to be a little bit selfish in football, so that’s the way it is.
“It was in my mind to get my knee operation and then get myself ready for going to America in January. Then Hibs offered me this so I took it. Hibs actually approached me at the end of last season. The chairman talked to my agent but my plan all along was to go to America. That got put on the back burner and I have to wait until January. Hibs called me up a few days ago so that’s me signed, done and dusted until January 10.
“I’m really looking forward to it. I enjoyed my time in the Championship last year and I think I’ll enjoy playing in there again.”