Jorge Claros has vowed to repay Hibs for their determination to keep him at Easter Road in the only way he knows how, by helping Pat Fenlon’s side take a step closer to Hampden.
The Honduran midfield ace has delayed jetting home for a World Cup qualifying match by 24 hours, freeing himself to play in Sunday’s William Hill Scottish Cup clash with Aberdeen with a place in the last eight awaiting the winners.
But while the national stadium holds bitter memories for the 27-year-old, not only the outcome of last May’s final against Capital rivals Hearts but the fact he was “hooked” before half-time, he’s desperate to do all he can to help take Hibs back there again at the end of this season.
After weeks of fretting over his future, Claros is all smiles again, his parent club in Motagua having agreed to extend his year-long loan in Edinburgh for another six months. While Claros himself confirmed the Edinburgh News report that a deal was struck at the end of last week, an announcement regarding his future was delayed until all the necessary red tape had been completed.
Today, though, Claros admitted the experience had left him “stressed”, Fenlon revealing he’d left him out of the trip to Pittodrie at the weekend as he felt his “head wasn’t right.”
Claros was back pulling the strings in midfield in Dingwall only hours after Hibs revealed he would, after all, continue to pull on a green and white jersey although Ivan Sproule’s goal against his old club took the smile off his face as SPL newcomers Ross County dumped Fenlon’s side for a third time this season.
Claros, however, hopes he’ll be laughing again as Hibs and Aberdeen meet for the second time in eight days, this time with both clubs having their eyes firmly on Cup glory.
And to that end he’s sought permission from the Honduran authorities to arrive later than expected for the opening game in the final phase of their bid to qualify for next year’s World Cup finals in Brazil, a clash with the United States next Wednesday.
Having fallen out of the international scene as he endured an indifferent first six months in Scotland, Claros’ early season form prompted a recall from coach Luiz Suarez, the one-time Rangers target returning for the last four matches in his country’s convoluted qualifying campaign. Claros emerged as a key figure as Honduras’ fading hopes were rekindled, a draw with Panama followed by wins in both legs of a double-header against Cuba setting up a “do-or-die” match against Canada, victory the only option if their dream was to remain alive.
Honduras did so in style, thumping the Canadians, who were skippered by former Hearts defender Kevin McKenna, 8-1 to progress to what has been dubbed the “Hexagonal Round,” with the Americans, Mexico, Jamaica, Panama (who qualified despite being runners-up at the initial stage) and Costa Rica battling it out for a place in Rio.
Today, though, Claros insisted Sunday’s match against Aberdeen was of greater importance to him – at least for the time being. He said: “It is a big game, it is for the cup, and that is all that is in my head. After Sunday my head will change and I will focus on the World Cup.
“I asked the Honduran FA if I could play for Hibs and fly out on Monday because I want to help them after they did so much to help me stay in Scotland. Sunday is very important to us, last year it was good to get to the Cup final but it was a day to forget but I think we can win against Aberdeen and take another step towards this season’s final.”
The agreement Claros has reached with his national officials leaves him facing a gruelling 12-hour journey involving three flights with only a day’s recovery before facing the States but, he insisted, he’ll take it all in his stride before making the return trip to arrive back in Edinburgh for Hibs SPL match against St Johnstone the following Monday.
He said: “I’ll leave on Monday morning, fly to London, on to Miami and then Honduras. I’ll have one day to recover before playing so it will be hard but I enjoy playing football.”
It is, he claimed, a small price to pay in a show of gratitude for the persistence Hibs showed in persuading Motagua, where he has 18 months of his contract to run, to allow him to continue playing in Scotland. Claros credits much of his refound form down to the happiness of his family, his wife Elsa and their infant son Johann having joined him in Edinburgh over the summer. Both Elsa and Johann are regular visitors to Easter Road on matchday, Claros having endured what he admitted was a difficult time as he missed his son’s birth and didn’t see him for the first three months of his life as he pursued his career on this side of the Atlantic.
With his family happily settled here while he enjoys his football, Claros insisted staying with Hibs was always his first choice, a fact he had made clear to both Fenlon and Motagua.
Even so, he revealed, he began to fret as negotiations between the clubs regarding an extended stay dragged on with no apparent sign of a breakthrough until Motagua director Julio Gutierrez disclosed at the end of last week that a deal had been struck. Fenlon denied that was the case, but today Claros insisted he’d signed a new deal last Friday, the delay in Hibs making an official announcement apparently down to ensuring all the necessary red tape had been complied with.
Claros said: “Every day has been stressful. I wanted to stay with Hibs because I enjoy my football, we have a good team, very good supporters, the gaffer is a good man and everyone has made me and my family very welcome.”