Rocky Bushiri 'turned down Hibs exit' as Lee Johnson details how defender has improved

Hibs boss Lee Johnson has revealed Rocky Bushiri has turned down the chance to leave the club on more than one occasion – and praised the Belgian defender for his hard work in the off-season.

The 22-year-old spent the second half of last season on loan from Norwich City at Easter Road, with the arrangement being made permanent in the summer, but the move prompted a negative reaction from some elements of the club’s support.

Bushiri is understood to have been left upset by the response and sought advice from the club’s hierarchy. The centre-back received a warm welcome from supporters who travelled to Portugal for the club’s pre-season games and has impressed manager Lee Johnson.

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Asked how the defender had responded to some of the reaction around his permanent contract with Hibs, the Easter Road boss said: “He is a good lad who still needs that bit of love. But we do that with all our players; they are all our kids, in terms of equals.

“When I looked at Rocky I was thinking to myself, ‘in terms of your football development, you’re probably three or four years younger than your actual age but you’re physically so big and strong that people expect you to be the finished article’.

“If Rocky had come through our youth academy, then the difference in how people perceived him would be massive but in football, unfortunately, perception is reality. I think we have helped him.

"We have worked on his first touch to open up the options to the full-back, or rap it between the lines, or drop and drive. Simplifying his game.

Rocky Bushiri in action for Hibs during a pre-season friendly match against Hartlepool United at the Amendoeira Golf Resort in Alcantarilha, Portugal

"We don’t want Rocky on the ball as much as we want Ewan Henderson on the ball. He needs to just be the security, the protection, for the team.”

Confirming that Bushiri had rejected the chance to leave Hibs and had been working hard since the end of the previous campaign, Johnson added: “I have been impressed with his capacity to learn in a difficult scenario.

"He has turned down a couple of moves.

"He is very keen to park his place and I’m very keen for him to park his place.”