Ross Laidlaw has revealed how former Hibs team-mates Liam Fontaine and Brian Graham helped persuade him to join Premiership newcomers Ross County.
Although the Dingwall outfit were keen to sign the goalkeeper as his three years at Easter Road came to an end, Laidlaw admitted the prospect of uprooting his family and moving home from Linlithgow to the Highlands was a huge decision.
But chats with striker Graham – back at the Staggies for a second time – and Fontaine who made the same switch 18 months ago, convinced the 26-year-old he was making the right choice.
And, he believes, he will finally have the chance to establish himself as a No .1 in his own right having spent a frustrating time as understudy to Ofir Marciano and Adam Bogdan at Hibs.
As such, he found himself limited to just 27 first-team appearances during his three years at Hibs, a statistic he hopes will undergo a dramatic change over the next couple of seasons.
At the moment, Laidlaw is the only senior goalkeeper on County’s books although co-managers Steven Ferguson and Stuart Kettlewell intend to make another signing to bring the competition needed at any club and something he insisted he will relish.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s going to be a new challenge and, with County having been promoted back to the Premiership, it’s something I wanted to be involved in.
“They’ve done really well in getting back up in the one season because the Championship is a hard league to get out of so it’s great credit to them that they did so. I think it shows they have a good squad and they’ve kept the majority of it together with only a few new players being brought in.
“That means the boys know each other well having played together for a while now and, as a side which has that winning habit from taking the Championship title, they’ll be looking forward to the new season with confidence.”
Laidlaw spent the second half of last season on loan at Dundee United in the hope of getting more game time but managed just one appearance for Robbie Neilson’s side as the Tannadice outfit’s own bid for promotion faltered in a play-off defeat by St Mirren.
However, he revealed, during that time he was also aware of County’s interest, something that was kept under wraps until it became known that Scott Fox, the Staggies’ first-choice keeper of the past four years, would be leaving.
He said: “I went up, saw the facilities, spoke with both managers and I felt I couldn’t turn it down. It was a big decision, not an easy one to make. My wife Claire and I have a three-week-old son Jack and we’ve decided the whole family will be moving up.
“Claire has been great about it. She knows how important my career is to me and that it sometimes means having to move around but we’ve bought a flat and they’ll be coming up in August. It’s not been the usual close season for me of just relaxing and chilling out a bit, it’s been pretty hectic with Jack’s arrival, the sleepless nights and making all these plans – but I’ve no complaints.”
However, as much as he was impressed not only by what both Ferguson and Kettlewell had to say but the new environment into which he’d be moving, Laidlaw sought out the advice of both Fontaine and Graham.
He said: “I think it’s always a bit reassuring to hear from others. They’re both loving it up there and they told me the best thing was to move the family up, that we’d enjoy it and that the club look after you really well.”