Former Hibs striker James Collins admits he regrets signing for the Easter Road side as he conceded that the move just didn’t work out.
The current Luton Town forward was brought to Edinburgh by Pat Fenlon for a reported fee of £210,000 after an impressive haul of goals at Shrewsbury and Swindon.
However, he failed to find the net in his first five matches for Hibs as the Capital club slipped down the table and were eventually relegated after losing on penalties in the play-offs to Hamilton.
Speaking to former Hibee team-mate Owain Tudur Jones on The Longman’s Football World Podcast, Collins - who has hit ten goals and four assists in 29 games for the Hatters so far this season - said: “Looking back at it, I regret going there now. I had the chance to sign for Rotherham as well and I sort of said ‘no’ because I was told a few other bits would pop up but they never materialised.
“So it ended up that Hibs was my last chance - Swindon had already said they wanted to sell me.”
Collins revealed that he flew up to Edinburgh the day before Hibs were due to face Malmo in Europa League qualifying, with the player’s medical scheduled to take place on the morning of the match.
He recalled: “I flew up on the Wednesday and went to the training ground on Thursday morning to do my medical. On the Thursday night they were playing in Europe against Malmo and got beat 7-0.
“I hadn’t signed because it had been delayed for another day, so I was in the hotel in Edinburgh and they’ve just been beaten 7-0 and and I was just thinking, ‘oh no’.
“I was still sort of talked into [signing], but I’d been around the training ground, seen the ground etc. so I’d sort of made my mind up.
“My missus was happy and we didn’t have any kids at that point so everything was fine. We bought a house and wanted to settle... I liked Scotland a lot.”
‘A great group of lads’
Collins insists that he wanted to do well north of the Border, adding: “It was a great group of lads and Pat Fenlon who brought me in, Jimmy Nicholl- what a character and what a guy he was.
“The first four or five months, I loved it. I actually didn’t think we were doing that badly, we were still in the cup and were fifth in the league. Then Terry Butcher and Maurice Malpas came in and by Christmas we were just plummeting.”
Butcher and Malpas arrived in early November, with Collins adding: “I felt sorry for Pat and Jimmy [when they left] because they were good to me. Just, for whatever reason, it didn’t work.”
Hibs only lost twice in Butcher’s opening ten matches, and recorded a derby victory over rivals Hearts.
However, the 2-1 victory over the Jambos on January 2 was the Easter Road side’s penultimate three points of the season, with Hibs’ last win of the regular season coming on February 15, beating Ross County by the same scoreline.
Collins also opened up on the pressure of being expected to replace the prolific Leigh Griffiths, who had scored 28 goals for Hibs the previous season and 39 across his two loan spells at Easter Road.
“I felt [the pressure]. I was young – only 21, 22 and not many people get bought for fees in Scotland - and off the back of the season before when Leigh Griffiths had scored like 35 goals, [the fans] were expecting big things.
“It all just got on top of me a bit,” he admitted, adding: “If you go a few games without scoring, the fans are like, ‘we’ve just bought this guy for X amount, why isn’t he scoring? Why didn’t we keep Leigh Griffiths?’
“Once I did start scoring they warmed to me a little bit more.”
Collins also recalled the aftermath of Hibs’ play-off defeat to Hamilton. A Jason Cummings double in the first leg had given Hibs a two-goal advantage going into the return match but a 13th-minute opener and an injury-time equaliser from Tony Andreu took the game to extra time and eventually penalties.
Cummings and Kevin Thomson missed their spot-kicks as Accies won the shoot-out 4-3, sparking angry protests from home supporters outside the ground after the match.
Collins - an unused sub that day - revealed he had been trapped in the medical room with Thomson and Michael Nelson, adding: “We were in the medical room and you just heard bricks getting thrown off the stands. The mood was devastating.
“[Ben Williams and me] were staying with [Nelson] at the time. We’d come in with him so we were going back to his flat in the car and on the way we stopped on Tranent High Street for fish and chips.
“We were walking into the shop and you could feel the daggers from Hibs fans, muttering things under their breath, so it was a case of heads down and get home.
“It’s such a shame, because however the fans were when we were up there, Hibs have got a great fan base.”
The derby win over Hearts remains a high point for Collins, who scored the first goal with Liam Craig netting the winner from the penalty spot.
He said: “One of my favorite memories of Hibs is the Edinburgh derby. I managed to score in one and that’s up there as one of my favourite goals. I still Google Sunshine on Leith from after the game.
“I remember a taxi driver said to me, ‘if you go out in Leith you won’t have to buy a drink all night.’ I had my family up for that game as well. It was a midweek game so we didn’t go out but it’s a great memory.”
Tudur Jones summed up Butcher’s tenure by adding: “[Those post-match scenes] are what we could have had more often - if we weren’t so useless. F** sake.”