Man-mountain Joe Mbu’s decision not to retire and sign on for another year at Edinburgh City was a welcome one for all involved with the Lowland League champions – and his first match after putting pen to paper will be against the club who released him for being too SMALL.
Scottish Cup winners Hibs visit Meadowbank for a friendly on Thursday, July 8. Mbu began his career with the Easter Road club, but admitted the lack of physical presence that is now a big part of his game was a factor in him not progressing through the ranks.
“I started off at Hibs and really enjoyed it at the time,” he said. “Again, there was the old cliche of size because I was a midget and wasn’t getting a game in front of guys who already at the age of 14 were six foot one, six foot two. I never sprouted until I was about 19.
“I had Donald Park a lot when I was at Hibs and when I bumped in to him again he was like, ‘Joe!? Wee Joe!?” He helped me a lot and if I had any questions that’s who I went to. He tried hard to get me to stay at Hibs, but I got a bit disillusioned when I left.
“Not a single player came through [from that group]. That’s what’s disappointing. At that time there was a Hibs-Hutchie link-up, but it just never happened. Not a single player went through and signed S-forms and made any appearances for Hibs. There were some decent players in the team. It’s just unfortunate because at that time it was, ‘if you’re not big enough you’re not going to play’. If only I’d sprouted a few years earlier.”
Now standing at six foot plus, the domineering centre back certainly isn’t too small for City’s needs as they prepare for a maiden season in Ladbrokes League Two, although Mbu admitted he was very close to hanging up his boots.
“Being continually pestered by [manager] Gary Jardine and the rest of the players is what changed my mind,” he said of retirement. “In the end my girlfriend Janice was like, ‘if you want to keep playing, just keep playing’, but I think secretly so angry it’s unbelievable!
“Plans were barbecues, going to the shops, more holidays – all the things she’s not been able to do for the last 14 years because I’ve been playing football. It did sound appealing, but playing football’s what I’ve known all this time and I do really enjoy it, but I thought it was time to step out and be a bit fair to her. We’ve missed out on so many things – weddings, holidays and loads of things like that and I’ve just never been willing to compromise the time out from football, so again she knows that me playing this year’s going to be the same. Maybe she’s hoping I get an injury or something!”
Also committed for another year is top-scorer Ross Allum, despite offers to head elsewhere. “I had a couple of options,” admitted the striker. “You always get told to go with your gut and, although I spoke to three or four clubs, I never felt like leaving was the right decision. There were moments when it looked like I would go, but after speaking to Gary, Joe and [club captain] Dougie Gair I knew I had to stay and finish what we started.
“There was an opportunity to go training with a team in League 1, which was a tough thing to knock back, but I’m happy here and I know what the club is about and what we are trying to achieve.
“There was money kicking about that I’ve not really experienced but it wasn’t the most important thing for me. I’m 27 now and I need to play as much football as I can in my peak years and I know I will do that at Edinburgh City.”