Pat FENLON’S Hibs stars have put the smiles back on the faces of their fans as they’ve taken the SPL by surprise, assembling a six-match unbeaten run which has sent them soaring to second in the table.
No-one, however, has a grin broader than that of Easter Road midfield ace Jorge Claros who is the picture of contentment. The Honduran internationalist is naturally delighted with the start he and his team-mates have made after the nightmare of last season, but that tells only part of the story.
Happy as he might be with life in a green and white jersey, the 26-year-old admits he can’t wait to leave football behind as he heads home after training sessions and matches to be reunited each day with his six-month-old son Johann.
Claros missed the child’s birth having left his heavily pregnant wife Elsa behind in Central America as he pursued his career on this side of the Atlantic in January, joining Hibs on a year-long loan deal from Motagua following a trial with Rangers.
Now though, Elsa and Johann have joined him in Edinburgh, his wife sitting in the stand last weekend as Fenlon’s players faced Inverness Caley sporting a Hibs shirt complete with “Claros No 8” and carrying Johann. And that, he declared, is the simple reason behind a resurgence in form which has not only benefited Hibs but seen Claros recalled by his country as they pursue a place in the World Cup finals in Brazil in 2014.
Looking back on his initial first few months in Scotland Claros today agreed that perhaps too much was expected of him, someone the Hibs fans possibly hoped could turn what was rapidly becoming a nightmare of a season around only to be bitterly disappointed as it continued on a downward spiral.
“Maybe that was the case,” he said, “but it was a very difficult period for me. I was new to Scotland, the football was very physical, the team wasn’t getting the results we needed, my English wasn’t very good and I was always thinking of my family. They are always No. 1 for me, very important.
“I was here, 5000 miles away when Johann was born and I wasn’t able to see him for the first time until the season was over. But now Elsa and Johann are here in Edinburgh everything is much better.
“It’s fantastic to have them here, I go to training and enjoy myself knowing that when I finish for the day I’ll be going back to my flat to play with Johann.
“I think as they say, when a football player is happy he plays better football and for me I couldn’t be happier.
“It’s great to have Elsa and Johann about rather than going back to an empty flat by myself, only being able to phone home and then spend the rest of the night watching television.”
As Claros headed home at the end of the season to meet Johann for the first time rumours surfaced that he wouldn’t be returning to Easter Road, gossip which he insists he knows nothing about.
He said: “I don’t know where the story came from. A newspaper in Honduras carried it, but I was always going to come back to Hibs for the remainder of my contract.”
Although he’s answered his critics with recent performances Claros insisted the supporters have yet to see the best of him, revealing he’s being driven on by the dream of playing in Brazil in a couple of years’ time to “complete the set” having played in the Under-20 World Cup in Holland in 2005 and then the Olympics in China the following year.
Playing for Honduras, however, means a 10,000 mile round trip, a journey Claros made last month having been recalled to the squad for a double-header against Cuba, both matches won to give his nation renewed hope of a play-off place, something he hopes to clinch in a couple of weeks when Panama and Canada are the opponents.
He added: “After the Dundee game a week tomorrow I fly to London then nine hours to Miami, I have two or three hours in the airport there and then another couple of hours to Honduras. I’ll be away for ten days and then I’ll have it all to do in reverse to be back for the match against Ross County – away.
“It’s a lot of travelling and very tiring but playing for my country is very important to me. I’ve played in the Under-20 World Cup and the Olympics but, like every football player, I dream of playing in the World Cup finals. Happily my performances for Hibs this season have earned me my place in the squad again.”
Claros’ more immediate thoughts, though, lie in tomorrow’s match against Aberdeen when again Hibs have the chance to hit the top of the SPL having spurned such an opportunity as they let a two-goal lead against Caley slip. Hibs, however, make the journey to Pittodrie in totally different shape to the last time they visited the Granite City with their very place in the top flight of Scottish football very much at risk.
A 2-1 victory that night eased the pressure immensely but now, Claros insisted, the total focus is on extending the unbeaten run to seven games with all three points.
He said: “I was very angry last weekend, to go from 2-0 up to 2-2 is very bad and we were all very disappointed.
“It was a massive game for us last time in Aberdeen, we went there second bottom of the league and now we are second top with the chance of going top.
“It’s been a great start to the season, very different to last season but it is important we keep things going well.”