Shefki Kuqi has insisted he won’t be haunted by the ghost of Mixu Paatelainen, telling Hibs fans: “I just want to be myself.”
The Finnish veteran had hardly set foot inside Easter Road after becoming Pat Fenlon’s eighth summer signing before he was being regaled with tales of his countryman’s exploits in a green and white shirt, not least Paatelainen’s derby-day hat-trick as Hibs crushed arch-rivals Hearts 6-2.
But rather than dwell on the past, the 35-year-old is determined to provide Hibs supporters with some “fun” of his own making, convinced that if he and his new team-mates can get it right on the pitch they’ll soon have the fans flocking back to Easter Road.
The much-travelled hitman said: “I have heard loads of things about Mixu, everyone has mentioned the hat-trick he scored against Hearts. But what I have said is I am who I am, I just want to be myself and to do my best for the team.
“Whatever someone has done before or hereafter, if things go the way I want them to go and the way I feel they can go, I think we will have good fun with the Hibs fans here.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge. I was involved in my first game last weekend and I watched the Hearts match here. The fans are pretty good and noisy, let’s hope we have success as a team and get them back to the stadium with the feeling they want to have. I know they had a bad feeling last season but as a player you want to perform as well as you can so you can get the fans happy on a Saturday.”
Although this is Kuqi’s first taste of Scottish football, the former Sheffield Wednesday, Blackburn Rovers, Fulham and Newcastle United star revealed he could twice previously have ventured north of the border.
He said: “Before I went to England in 2000 my first trial was at Kilmarnock. I was there for a week but nothing happened and I joined Stockport County. Then, when I was at Blackburn there was interest from Celtic but the club was not willing to let me go and that was the end of it.
“It was 2007, Blackburn were doing well but if Celtic or Rangers are interested you have to have a think about it. Obviously every football player dreams of playing in the Champions League or Europe and with Celtic and Rangers you have that opportunity. But Blackburn were unwilling to let me go and that was end of story.”
As fate would have it, Hibs travel to Celtic Park next weekend but Kuqi insisted he won’t be going along the M8 wondering what might have been. He said: “I put lots of thought in when I make a decision but when it is made I don’t think ‘could I have done this or that’.
“One day, when I have finished my career I will sit down and think ‘could I have done anything better, could I have gone there’. But everything I have done I feel has been as good as I could and hopefully everything goes as well as I want it to go until I finish my career.”
Kuqi revealed he’d put just as much thought into his surprise move to Edinburgh, insisting that although he’d sought the advice of others the decision was, again, entirely his own.
He said: “I have been down in England for so many years and played at almost every level so when Hibs came along, I wanted to have a little taste of Scottish football. It’s the first league as well, something that was interesting. I spoke with a few lads in England and asked about things, but at the end of the day it was my decision. I can ask, but whatever happens I go with my feeling and heart.
“I have had a decent career in England but the reason I’ve been at different clubs is that I was not happy just to be on the bench, getting paid and not caring what is going on. The team means a lot to me, there’s nothing better than training all week and playing on a Saturday.”