Former Hibs star Freddy Arpinon tipped Abdellah Zoubir to become a fans favourite after the arrival of the French youngster and Kilmarnock striker Paul Heffernan at Easter Road took Pat Fenlon’s summer signings into double figures.
In a busy day of transfer activity at the Capital club just 24 hours before the transfer window slams shut, 21-year-old Zoubir agreed a season-long loan deal while Heffernan signed a contract until the end of the 2014/15 season.
Zoubir impressed during a week-long trial at the club’s East Mains training centre, as did Ipswich Town winger Josh Carson, but Fenlon’s double swoop would appear to put a question mark against the Northern Ireland internationalist making the move north.
However, both Zoubir and Heffernan could be involved in today’s Scottish Premiership clash at home to Ross County, with Hibs understood to have completed the necessary paperwork – including an international transfer certificate from the French Football Federation – to complete the Lille-born kid’s switch from French Ligue 2 outfit C Istres.
There were no such obstacles, though, regarding 31-year-old Heffernan, who now faces the prospect of making his debut for a side he faced just seven days ago, with Hibs coming from behind to beat Kilmarnock 2-1 and so pick up their first three points of the season.
The Dublin-born forward, who has scored more than 100 goals on both sides of the border having previously played for Notts County, Bristol City, Doncaster Rovers and Sheffield Wednesday, admitted he’d been surprised at the speed of his move from the west coast although he revealed former Rugby Park team-mates Tim Clancy and Michael Nelson had helped persuade him to make the switch.
He said: “It’s strange, I played against Hibs last weekend and today I could be playing for the club, but that’s football. Everything can change very quickly and now I’m excited about starting the next chapter of my career at Hibs. Hopefully my time with the club will be successful.”
Fenlon, who had been seeking both a wide player to cover for the loss through injury of Paul Cairney and Alex Harris, as well as another experienced striker to give summer signings James Collins and Rowan Vine further competition, was delighted to land Heffernan, his tenth signing of this transfer window.
“The situation concerning Paul’s arrival developed very late on,” the manager explained. “He is a good, experienced player and his goal-scoring record is very good. He knows the league inside out and he’s different to what we have. Paul comes with a good pedigree and hopefully he will bring both goals and experience to the side.”
Zoubir, of course, is a rather less-familiar figure to Scottish football, but Arpinon, now director of football at Istres, believes the unknown youngster will make a name for himself in Edinburgh.
He said: “Abdellah is an excellent young player, fast, with good technique and a good mentality. Hibs fans will like him because he is a wonderful player and I am sure they will enjoy watching him play.”
Zoubir still has two years left on his contract at Istres, a small club based only a few miles from Marseille, but Arpinon, who spent two seasons at Easter Road under Alex McLeish and countryman Franck Sauzee, expects him to return to France a much better player for the experience of a season in the Scottish Premiership.
He said: “Abdellah wasn’t getting a lot of games here because he is young and the manager has a lot of players. But I like him as a player and, having played for Hibs myself, I am very happy he is going to play at Easter Road.
“I spoke to him before we agreed the move and he is very happy. He has enjoyed his week with Hibs and he is looking forward to playing for the club. I told him he has joined a good club and will enjoy playing for Hibs and living in Edinburgh. Scottish football is different to what he has been used to, but it won’t be a problem for him.
“It will be good for his development to have a season with a club like Hibs which has brought through so many youngsters of their own over the years and I expect to see a better player come back to us at the end of the season.”
Although it is understood the fact Arpinon is at Istres is purely coincidental in this instance, the former midfielder reiterated his hope that a more formal link-up between the two clubs may arise from Zoobir’s move. He said: “I like Hibs and I think that with Istresswe can to a lot of things.
“Perhaps more players may follow Abdellah and, who knows, maybe a player or two may come in the opposite direction. We will have to see but I intend to come over at some point during the course of the season to check on Abdellah’s progress, that is something I will enjoy doing.”