Marvin Bartley has admitted that keeping his team-mates in the dark about him leaving Easter Road was the toughest part of his surprise move to Livingston.
The Hibs midfielder, knowing he was out of contract at the end of the season, negotiated his own three-year deal with the West Lothian club, revealing he has always shunned using an agent.
But, as he talked to Livingston boss Gary Holt, those he shared a dressing-room with were oblivious to what was going on until he was ready to go public with his decision.
“It was hard,” said the 32-year-old. “Lewis Stevenson came up to me and asked ‘how long have you known about that?’
“I had to tell him the truth but I explained I couldn’t tell the lads and he said he understood. But keeping that from them has been hard. They are my work colleagues, but they are also my friends and I actually class them as family.
“So to be going through that and speaking about it with the gaffer but not telling them, it has been hard. I don’t want them to think that I had been deceiving them, so when it came out I went on to the group chat and explained it to all the boys.
“Boyle [Martin Boyle] just said he couldn’t wait to kick me out of the group chat.”
With no agent working on his behalf, Bartley insisted he wasn’t worried about his future as his time with Hibs drew to a close.
He said: “I don’t have an agent. I know that bucks the trend, but I say to the young boys here, you don’t really need an agent. If a club wants you, they will get in touch with you. If they don’t they won’t and an agent isn’t going to persuade them to take you.
“I do see agents as agitators and, to put it bluntly, not having an agent cuts out the bulls**t. If something is not going to happen, it’s not going to happen and I think it is better to speak to someone face-to-face.
“I have heard stories [about agents], but not on a personal level. But that’s because I’ve never allowed myself to be put in that position. I have heard stories and I won’t mention names, but I’m currently helping someone who is in that kind of position with an agent just now. They are not for me, to be honest.
“Sometimes you get a feel for a person and if I speak to a manager and I don’t feel any connection, then I won’t go there. It’s that simple.
“I’m not the sort of guy to worry. I have had a great time. I came into football late, I was 20, and now I am 32. If that was to be it, then so be it. But I had a few phone calls and spoke to a few different clubs and I was quite surprised that they were calling as early as they were, with the season not being finished up here, but none of it worried me.”
Signed from Leyton Orient four years ago, Bartley has previously admitted he had to be persuaded by Graeme Mathie, Hibs’ head of player identification and recruitment to even travel to Edinburgh four years ago. However, he insisted signing on with Livingston – where he will also be helping with the reserves in addition to his first team duties – was an indication of how much he’s taken to life in Scotland.
He said: “I’m coming towards the end, playing-wise, so you have to be happy. I did have options in England and I could have earned a bit more money, but I’m happy here. My family are happy when they come up to see me and I’m happy in my day-to-day life and that outweighs going somewhere else and earning more money.
“I went and spoke to Livingston, it was what we agreed, and I was very happy with that.”
Although he intends to continue playing throughout the next three years, Bartley revealed he also has an eye on moving into management, claiming that one day he could be back at Hibs knocking on the door of George Craig, the club’s head of football operations, asking for a job.
He said: “Yes, that’s the plan. I want to play for as long as I can first as well as getting my A Licence. I’m also doing a football management course at Napier University along with a few of the other Hibs boys. It’s the other side of the game away from coaching and I’m interested in that.
“Once I’ve completed all of that I’ll be knocking on George’s door and saying, ‘can I have a job mate’.”
Although he kept what was going on from his team-mates, Bartley revealed Hibs boss Paul Heckingbottom was in on the secret and insisted they are parting on good terms.
“The new manager has been a great appointment. I believe the club will keep progressing under him and I really hope they do – just in the games that they’re not playing against Livingston.
“The gaffer is brilliant and I’m not just saying that.
“He’s top notch as a coach and he’s taking the club in the right direction. His coaching and the attention to detail is second to none.
“But I will miss everyone. From the people in the kit room, the video department, everyone in this building [East Mains] and everyone who works at the stadium. They all do a magnificent job and it is like being part of a family here.”