Joe Newell confirms Hibs interest in him during Neil Lennon tenure and reveals Paul Heckingbottom promise
The 28-year-old eventually joined Hibs in the summer of 2019/20 while Paul Heckingbottom was at the helm but in an appearance on the Longbangers podcast the former Rotherham and Birmingham midfielder told how he was on the club’s radar before eventually signing on the dotted line.
Newell said: "I’d signed a three-year deal with Rotherham [in August 2015] and when Neil Lennon was in charge at Hibs my agent told me they were interested, but then Rotherham got promoted to the Championship, and I had a year’s option on my contract which they took up so things went a bit quiet after that.
"When that year ran out, I’d kind of decided that I wanted to leave Rotherham. I loved my time there but wanted a different challenge.
"Hibs were still interested in me. I was humming and hawing about it because I’d never imagined playing in Scotland: I used to love going home, whether it was when I was at Rotherham or Peterborough I’d be back at the weekends and towards the end at Rotherham I actually lived at home and used to commute. Bit of a homeboy, really.
"I didn’t have a great year during my last season at Rotherham and the other clubs interested in me were all top-end League One clubs. I was 26 and I felt that my whole career up until then, all eight years, had been spent at the top of League One or scrapping at the bottom of the Championship.
"Hibs was something completely different. It was just a new challenge, something I never thought I’d do but there was a little bit of me thinking, ‘why not?’ Great city to live in, a big club, completely different faces, new league.
"It’s a short career; why not go and experience something different?”
When Newell arrived at Hibs there was some confusion over his preferred role. Heckingbottom appeared to view him as more of a wide player while the player himself said in his initial interviews after joining that he was primarily a central midfielder.
"One of the reasons I came up here was because Hecky told me that he wanted to use me centrally, so that was why I signed, to be honest. The teams down south wanted to sign me as a winger but Hecky wanted me in the middle,” Newell explained.
"When Martin Boyle got injured in the summer in my first season that didn’t help. We were quite short out wide – I think we had Daryl Horgan on one side, me on the other, and not much else.
"Whether that forced Hecky’s hand I don’t know but when I joined I didn't get a chance in the middle until Jack Ross came in.
"As sad as it it to say, because Hecky is a top bloke and a really good guy, my Hibs career turned around when he left and Jack came in.”