'Marv's word means a lot' - Efe Ambrose reveals Hibs connection that sealed Livingston move
Efe Ambrose is set to line up for Livingston against Hibs this weekend after the Nigerian defender’s former Easter Road colleague Marvin Bartley helped convince him to sign for the West Lothian club on a contract until summer 2021.
The 31-year-old centre-back hasn’t kicked a competitive ball in over a year since leaving Hibs at the end of 2018. Following an ill-fated spell at Derby County where he didn’t play a game, Ambrose has been a free agent since the end of last season.
He has spoken previously of a desire to return Scottish football, leading to excitement among Hibs fans who hoped to see him back at Easter Road.
However, that is now likely to happen instead as a Livingston player after Lions midfielder Bartley coaxed him to join him in West Lothian.
“Marv’s word means a lot,” added Ambrose. “If Marv is enjoying being at a club, then there is something special.
“I know the reputation of this club: tough, hard to beat. The team is strong, they fight together and the spirit in the club is good."
Ambrose was a popular figure among Hibs fans and is likely to get a warm welcome this weekend. In the following game, Ambrose is due to face another of his former clubs when Celtic visit West Lothian.
“It is just football - Brother plays against brother, friend plays against friend,” smiled Ambrose. "On the pitch, I will concentrate on Livingston. Away from the pitch I will always have my friends at Hibs and Celtic.”
No regrets over Derby switch
Ambrose is adamant he has no regrets about the switch to Derby County a year ago which left him in the football wilderness because it allowed him to learn at the feet of his “hero” Frank Lampard.
“I have missed playing football but do I regret the move to Derby? No, you cannot regret things in football or life,” he said.
“The most important thing was what I learned from Derby.
“I didn’t have the chance to play but I did not regret it. It was an experience for me and they really helped me and developed me.
“I took a lot from my time there: the training, the intensity and quality of the players and seeing the work of a great coach in Frank Lampard.
"I can say I worked with the Chelsea manager! He is a good guy, I great personality and my hero. I have always supported Chelsea when he was there so it was very special to work with him.”
Ambrose adds: “But football doesn’t stop and, if you don’t get a chance somewhere, you’ll get the chance somewhere else.
“Today I have my chance to play at Livingston and show what I can do again.”
St Mirren interest
In different circumstances, he would have been afforded that platform by St Mirren.
“There was interest in me [while a free agent] but nothing concrete,” he continued, explaining eight months without a club. “The only thing I had was St Mirren but Livingston came first and I chose them instead.”
Secret talks and undercover Ibrox mission
The seismic surprise at seeing Ambrose arrive at the Tony Macaroni Arena was exacerbated by the fact no-one got wind of the deal.
The talks were kept admirably under wraps despite the fact the experienced defender was in attendance at Ibrox, of all places, to watch Livi lose 1-0 on Sunday.
“Nobody thought Efe Ambrose would be in Scotland so no-one noticed me,” he laughed. “And I kept my hat on so no-one could get a look at me.”
He is, however, unlikely to be so inconspicuous when he steps back onto the pitch.
Ambrose boasts six major honours from five years at Celtic, played in the last-16 of the Champions League, won the Championship title at Hibs and boasts an Africa Cup of Nations triumph during a Nigeria career which, to date, has heralded 51 caps.
Even if some like to poke fun at his occasional high-profile errors, this is a man ready-made for the bid to make Livingston's European dream a reality.
“The league position is exciting and has really inspired me,” Ambrose continued. “I saw the level they are at and where they're pushing to be.
“You never know at the end of the season if we'll be in Europe or the top six, but nothing is impossible.”