Rocky Bushiri enjoying change in system as Hibs defender gears up for Hearts test
and live on Freeview channel 276
The 23-year-old has previously spoken about his difficult start to life in Edinburgh, initially on loan from Norwich City before making the move permanent in the summer. Revealing that he hadn’t been fully fit last season on top of adapting to playing regularly after a lengthy spell on the sidelines, he opened up about the reaction from the stands to his displays at the start of last year, and what he did to get back to his best. Bushiri has played half a season under Johnson and in that time has become a key member of the squad, with a brief absence through injury keenly felt on the pitch.
"Every manager has a different philosophy. It depends on the system you play. I enjoy this system more, playing in a three or four centrally whereas before I played on the right side. It all depends on the system,” he explains.
"I also came here after long injuries so I was restarting things. I had a chance in the summer to work on those things and that has helped me to settle well this season. In sport we get exposed and need to accept things but it’s up to us how we take it. You want to show a reaction and say to the fans, ‘okay guys, let me give you something back so we can all go in the same direction’. The fans want the team to do well. I’ve worked on it, and it’s in the past and we can look forward.”
Such has been the improvement in his form that Johnson suggested he wouldn’t sell the player for less than an eight-figure sum, saying in October: “When I first walked through the door, he was one I was probably happy to move on. Now, I wouldn’t let him go for £10 million.”
Bushiri has been quizzed on this valuation before but believes it is testament to the hard yards he has been putting in since Johnson first arrived to take the reins at Easter Road.
“It’s nice words,” he smiles. “He has been straight with me since day one about what I need to do better and how he wants to use me. I think you can see in his philosophy how he can use me to help other players be more free on the pitch. It’s a boost. And when you have people like Martin Boyle in the team there are loads of jokes about it…!”
Hearts will be another stern test after last week’s 4-0 defeat by Celtic and Bushiri believes the match will be more about mentality than anything else as Hibs chase a win at Tynecastle for the first time since 2019.
"It’s going to be about mentality. It will be a physical game, a good test. I don’t think there will be much of a game plan for both teams. If we win in the league it will give us a big boost for the cup but every game is different. Some players are back from injury and will have more minutes. It’s a different approach.”