Hibs boss Neil Lennon has admitted he could soon be fending off bids for Efe Ambrose, claiming the Nigerian defender is back at the top of his game.
Lennon brought Ambrose to Celtic from Israeli club Ashdod and moved to sign him on loan to help Hibs push for the Championship title and promotion last season after he’d fallen out of favour in Glasgow following a couple of high-profile mistakes. This summer, he persuaded him to sign a two-year deal at Easter Road.
Although Ambrose has had his critics, Lennon insisted he did not lose faith in his ability, adamant the form he is currently showing for Hibs could earn him a recall to the Nigeria squad for next summer’s World Cup finals in Russia.
However, Lennon knows full well that, as is the case with Scotland midfielder John McGinn, the dramatic turnaround in the 28-year-old’s career is likely to create interest elsewhere.
“It wouldn’t surprise me,” he conceded. “There were a few teams in for him before we got him last year and, if he keeps playing the way he has been, his stock will rise.
“This is a player who has played in the Champions League and played in a team which qualified and reached the last 16. He’s also won the Africa Cup of Nations and played in the World Cup, so he has a massive pedigree.”
Lennon was adamant the way Ambrose has resurrected his career was an indication of his inner strength, saying: “For me, at Celtic, Efe was excellent. He was very consistent for me for three seasons. You don’t lose that.
“He is a superb athlete and a consummate professional, who looks after himself very well so I had no worries bringing him in. Now I am seeing the player I know he is. He is a good player. There is no disgrace not to make the Celtic team.
“There are a lot of good players who are on the fringes there or who have left the club and then gone on to play very, very well elsewhere. To play in that environment, while it’s great, is difficult.
“You have to take the rough with the smooth, and it is feast or famine. If things are going well, it’s the best thing in the world and then you make a mistake and you are under the spotlight. Then you have to show a bit of character, a bit of personality.
“Efe has that in abundance. He is very quiet away from the place and he is a man of great faith as well. How long can we keep him in this form? I don’t know. He has his own targets as well with Nigeria having qualified for the World Cup.
“That’s important for him to knock on the door and try to get back into that squad as well, he’s more than capable of doing that with the form he is showing. He is still a big man there, he has 50 odd caps and he is at his peak. Nigeria have qualified and he didn’t participate in the qualifiers because he was not playing. Now he is back playing hopefully he can start asking a few questions.”
Hibs go into today’s match with Premiership basement side Dundee looking for a fourth successive victory but with a warning from Lennon that they aren’t in a position to expect to win. He said: “We’re still a promoted team albeit we have a good squad and are playing well.
“Dundee, by all accounts, are playing well and not getting results which is the position we were in a month ago so we are very wary of Dundee.”