Neil Lennon today claimed Hibs had pulled off “a real coup” in persuading Nigerian internationalist Efe Ambrose to sign a two-year deal.
The Easter Road boss revealed the Capital club had fought off interest from elsewhere to clinch a deal with the 28-year-old as he became a free agent on the expiry of his contract with Celtic.
And Lennon believes the successful period Ambrose spent in Edinburgh on an emergency loan in the second half of the season, helping Hibs clinch the Championship title and a return to the top flight, had played a part in his decision.
Ambrose became a firm favourite with the Easter Road support during that spell which brought him in from the cold after he found himself out of Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers’ plans, the central defender answering those who had branded him ‘accident prone’.
Lennon said: “I think it’s worked out well for both parties. To get a player of that calibre in the building on a two-year deal is very exciting. I think we saw how good a player he is during that time with us last season.
“He was a much-maligned character but he showed what a quality player he is. He is always healthy, he’s never injured so I think it’s a great bit of business. Credit to the people behind the scenes for making it happen.”
Lennon brought Ambrose to Celtic from Israeli club Ashdod in the summer of 2012 and, although he enjoyed winning plenty of silverware with the Glasgow club, a few high-profile errors saw his fortunes take a downward spiral.
However, Lennon believes the opportunity to again work with him and his assistant Garry Parker appealed to Ambrose, offering him the chance to breathe new life into his career.
Admitting it’s not often a club can attract an international player on a two-year contract as a free agent, Lennon believes the “phenomenal” crowds Hibs enjoyed last season also played a part in making up Ambrose’s mind.
And he insists the experience of Ambrose will be a vital factor as Hibs return to the Premiership after a three-year absence.
He said: “The club is on the up. We are not getting carried away but have a big season ahead of us. There is a lot of anticipation but we feel we are back where the club should be.
“I think we can say we’ve pulled off a real coup in signing Efe for the next two years. There was other interest in him but his family want to stay in Scotland. He’s just had a baby boy so there were personal reasons as well. We are getting him at a good age, good experience, good record. He’s won trophies already. That’s good business – a quality player at the right time of his career.”
• Hibs new boy Simon Murray will be available for the opening game of the Ladbrokes Premiership season after the second yellow card he received for simulation in Dundee United’s play-off tie against Hamilton last week was rescinded. Murray, who has signed a two-year deal at Easter Road, was red-carded in the game but now won’t face a ban.