'I am here to score goals for Hibs' - Exclusive interview

Mayenda in action for Hibs.Mayenda in action for Hibs.
Mayenda in action for Hibs. | SNS Group
On-loan Sunderland striker looking to fulfil early promise

A rising star of the first team at 16, Eliezer Mayenda picks an unexpected word when discussing the most important quality for anyone involved in football. Patience? Really? In a game always played at a pace pitched between frantic and flipping mental, and a profession where transfers agreed in the blink of an eye can transport a player halfway across the world without giving him time to pack his pyjamas?

Well, maybe the Spanish youngster – still just 18 and looking to learn from this loan spell away from parent club Sunderland – has a point. When everyone and everything around you is in constant frenetic motion, maybe it is important to stop, take a breath … and just wait for the right chance to fall your way.

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Make no mistake, Mayenda is at Hibs to work. And work. And work. As you’d expect from someone who was hailed as a wunderkind at an age when most are still fretting about exams and homework, he’s also confident in his ability.

Asked if he would score goals for Hibs, the lad from Zaragoza grinned as he promised: “Yes. Definitely! Of course. I mean, I WANT so score goals for Hibs! I can guarantee that I will work hard for that. It is my world.”

Mayenda’s world has, of course, always revolved around the practice of kicking a round ball. If nothing else, the attacker – the youngest ever debutant for French club Sochaux – could give local lad Rory Whittaker, who holds that honour for Hibs, a few pointers on handling what comes next.

Slightly hampered by a language barrier that frustrates his attempts to add nuance and context to the conversation, he says of his own journey: “Yes, I played very young in France. My first professional game was when I was just 16, which was incredible, an amazing feeling.

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“I was still a boy, of course. But, at that moment, it was normal for me. A dream, yes, but it felt normal to play for the first team. It is hard to explain.

“When you play so young, there are expectations. And that can be difficult. For me, it’s not so difficult, because I just love playing football.

“The most difficult thing was the pressure of the games and the need for patience. That is hard to learn when you are still so young. But I love the game so much.

“I am happy here, happy to have made the move, and I am looking forward to enjoying my football. I found out about the interest from Hibs on the last day of the transfer window and it sounded like a good option.

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“I had been going to the academy at Sunderland, working hard and trying to help the team. But I was happy to sign the loan contract to come here.

“The gaffer here has told me that the most important thing is just to work every day. He knows I am young and still developing as a footballer, so I have to work and work every time I am on the training pitch or in the gym.

“When I play, he said the most important thing is to help the team. To do what the team needs. So I can play as a striker, a real No. 9. But I can also play as a winger. The gaffer will decide that for me.”

Mayenda’s contribution to Hibs has been limited, so far, to an appearance as a half-time substitute in last weekend’s 3-0 trouncing by St Mirren at Easter Road. In front of swathes of empty seats, with thousands of fans having demonstrated their disgust by walking out at the interval, he showed signs of promise. But talk about being dropped into a crisis situation … it hardly felt fair on the kid.

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Having signed for Sunderland last summer, it’s fair to say that Mayenda’s time on Wearside has been troubled, with a hamstring injury picked up in his very first training session putting him on the sidelines for months. He wasn’t available for selection until November, with his return having Black Cats manager – and former Hibs boss – Tony Mowbray raving about the exciting potential being shown by a player who likes to eliminate defenders and create havoc in the opposition defence.

The arrival of Michael Beale as a replacement for Mowbray in December signalled a change. And Mayenda, who didn’t manage to score for Sunderland in one start and seven substitute appearances for the first team, found himself surplus to the new gaffer’s immediate requirements. Which is, of course, where the loan system comes in. He was a late signing for Hibs, a piece of business done after they’d landed their prime targets – but too good an opportunity to miss.

Mayenda, in seeking to explain why he failed to make an immediate impact in English football, acknowledged: “Yeah, it was a difficult start. At Sunderland, we had a lot of new players coming in all at once. And there’s nothing easy in football. It’s not easy when you have so many new players in the team.

“But they are all really good players. All they need is patience. That is important in football.”

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