Jimmy Boco speaks on why he joined Hibs, Jim Duffy, Chic Charnley, and his Easter Road exit
Former Hibs defender Jean-Marc ‘Jimmy’ Boco has revealed he didn't want to leave the club after just one season – but says he did so for the good of the team and his successor.
After the Easter Road side was relegated to the First Division, manager Alex McLeish – who ironically had been interested in signing the Benin-born footballer for Motherwell – recruited Paul Lovering from Clydebank, and the youngster was given a chance to impress in pre-season.
Speaking on the Talkin’ Fitbaw podcast, Boco, who hung up his boots after leaving Hibs, opened up on his departure in the summer of 1998.
"Alex McLeish came in and wanted to change some things, and when we began with a new left-back [Paul Lovering] in the friendly matches, I was on the bench,” said Boco.
"I said to the coach, and the chairman, 'It's not fair. I'd rather leave and let this young player play’. I was on the bench but the fans were still singing my name and I just felt it wasn't fair on Paul or the team so I resigned, I left.
"I would have loved to have stayed on for one more year because I loved Hibs and Scotland. And I still love Hibs and Scotland.”
Boco: My UK football dream
Asked why he had chosen Scotland, and Hibs, Boco said: "I wanted to play in the UK although at that time, players from France weren't that highly regarded.
"I wanted to experience the game in Scotland or England before I retired.
"I had a couple of tests, and Jim Duffy was looking for a player with experience so he asked me and I signed.
"Motherwell were interested as well - I went there and talked to Alex McLeish before I signed for Hibs.
"I couldn't understand anything the other players were saying when I first arrived, especially Yogi [John Hughes], I couldn't understand anything ... just that he was crazy.”
Memories of Celtic and Charnley
Boco’s first game for Hibs was the memorable 2-1 victory over Celtic on the opening day of the 1997/98 season, a Chic Charnley strike turning out to be the winner for the Capital club.
Despite a strong start to the season, the team was unable to maintain that level of performance and relegation was confirmed with a 2-1 defeat by Dundee United at Easter Road in May 1998.
"Celtic was my first game, live on Sky. I had a couple of good challenges and Chic Charnley scored a great goal and when we won this game I thought it was a good start and we were going to have a good season,” Boco recalled.
“Chic Charnley is one of the best players I ever played with. Honestly, one of the best. He had a great left foot.
"I couldn't believe that with such good players we couldn't avoid relegation, but we lost a couple of games that we shouldn't have. I remember a game against Rangers, we were leading by two goals and we lost, it was just unbelievable.”
‘We let Duffy down’
Manager Jim Duffy was sacked after a 6-2 defeat at Motherwell but Boco insists the players should have shouldered more of the blame.
"I had a lot of respect for Jim Duffy. I think the players let him down, I said that at the time.
"The manager is responsible for the results on the pitch but we had to admit that we had let him down in a couple of games. He was a nice guy, he is a nice guy.
"We should have done much more on the pitch. We had a problem with our goalkeeper, and for a couple of games we didn't play well. It wasn't Jim's fault.”
Summing up his time in Edinburgh, Boco said: "I loved it. To be honest, when I arrived at Hibs, I didn't realise it was such a big club.
"But I was very proud to come to a club where I played for just one year but had such a great relationship with the fans.”
Boco is now managing director of the Diambars project, a Senegalese-based institution aimed at offering young African athletes aged 13-18 the best possible chance of success by using football as a tool for social, economic and cultural development.