Franck Dja Djedje is determined to enjoy long-term prosperity at Hibs after becoming fed up lugging his family around Europe.
The last time the Ivorian striker felt genuinely content on and off the park was with Ukrainian side Chornomorets Odesa, whom he played with for 18 months. However, his time there turned sour when political unrest erupted in the nearby area and he reluctantly left the club almost a year ago. Short-term stints in Norway and Belarus followed, but with a four-year-old son and a pregnant wife to look after, Dja Djedje, who signed an 18-month contract when he joined Hibs last month, is hoping he can put down roots in Edinburgh for the foreseeable future.
“I’m at a stage where I want to stay a long time at one club,” he told the Evening News. “In the past I’ve been at clubs for two, three or six months. At Odesa I signed for three years and I would have stayed there longer if it wasn’t for the political problems. Every time I have to move my family, but now I want to stay at Hibernian a long time and put down roots.”
Dja Djedje has settled well since signing for Hibs four weeks ago after sounding out his long-time friend and former Easter Road defender Sol Bamba about the club. “It is a beautiful city,” he said. “Sol had told me when I phoned him that this is a good club, the city is very beautiful and the people are very good. The other players have been very good at making me feel welcome – there is a very good atmosphere at the club.
“Everybody speaks to me and makes me feel good. The coaches are always talking to me and asking if my family are well. It’s very nice. The supporters have been great as well. There were not very many supporters when I played in France and other countries, but here many fans come to the stadium which is good.”
The only fly in the ointment for Dja Djedje so far is that a minor hamstring injury stopped him hitting the ground running and has limited him to just two substitute outings. Both of those matches resulted in frustrating home draws, against Falkirk and Raith Rovers. He now feels fully fit and eager to start in Saturday’s Scottish Cup fifth-round match against Arbroath.
“I’ve come on in two games but I am not so happy with that,” he said. “I will be happier when I start a game. My injury is finished now and I want to begin a game. I just want to start scoring goals and assisting my team-mates and help the team get into the top division. I want to play against Arbroath, but that is up to the coach.
“The two games I have played have been very disappointing. To play two games and not win is no good for me. I want to win games and play in the top division. This club is too big for the second division. It has a big stadium, a great training centre and many fans. We need to get into the top division.”
Dja Djedje’s hopes of starting this weekend are boosted by the fact on-loan Dundee forward Martin Boyle is cup-tied, while Dominique Malonga, although back from Africa Cup of Nations duty, is suspended following his red card in the victory at Alloa in the fourth round. The Ivorian knows he needs to seize any chance he gets in the Hibs team as head coach Alan Stubbs will soon have five recognised first-team strikers to choose from - Boyle, Dja Djedje, Jason Cummings, Dominique Malonga and Farid El Alagui, who is closing in on a return from his long-term injury lay-off.
“It is good to have a lot of forwards,” said Dja Djedje. “I only know Dominique’s name, I have never met him, but now he is coming back, that will be another striker. I like that, though. The best forwards will play. It makes everyone train hard because they know they have to do well if they want to play. This is good for the team.”
Dja Djedje may be 28, but he remains driven and ambitious. He pinpoints winning the 2005 Under-19 European Championships with France in Northern Ireland as his career highlight. In the final, the young French side defeated an England team containing West Ham midfielder Mark Noble and current Scotland midfielder James Morrison.
Like Morrison, Dja Djedje, who was born in Ivory Coast but grew up in France, is now affiliated to a different nation from the one he represented ten years ago. He played for the Ivory Coast Under-23 team at the 2008 Olympics and has been waiting for a call-up to the full team ever since.
Goals such as his winner for Odesa away to PSV Eindhoven in the Europa League 13 months ago haven’t been enough to earn him full recognition for the country of his birth thus far, but he is refusing to give up on one day winning a full cap.
“I have been watching the African Nations – all the Ivory Coast players are my friends. I know them well from playing with them in the past,” he said. “The national team has been playing very good. It is hard for me because I’m a striker and we have many, many good strikers. I am still only 28, so maybe if I score many goals at Hibs, the national team coach may call me. My priority is to do well for my club and enjoy playing, but if the national team calls, that would be great.”
Bamba, who left Hibs for Leicester City four years ago, is back on British soil after two-and-a-half years on the continent with Trabzonspor and then Palermo. He signed for Leeds United last week and has already promised his good friend that he will be pay a visit to Edinburgh at the earliest opportunity. “Leeds is only four hours in the car, so Sol has said he will come up to Edinburgh to see me and to watch Hibs play,” Dja Djede explained. “That will be very good for me. His mother is like my mother. Sol is like family to me.”
Speaking of family, Dja Djedje is excited by the arrival of his second child and first daughter. “She will be born here, so I will have a little Scottish girl,” he laughed.