JAMES Collins’ wretched time at Hibernian came to an end yesterday when the striker, signed for a reported fee of £200,000, was allowed to leave to join Shrewsbury Town in England’s bottom division.
Neither club would divulge whether a fee was involved in the deal, but it is understood that Hibs have allowed the 23-year-old to leave for free – accepting a major loss on a player who was effectively bought to fill the sizeable void left by fans’ favourite and top goalscorer Leigh Griffiths.
Collins’ meagre return from 40 matches in a Hibs shirt was just six goals, although he did score the winning goal against Hearts in the New Year derby at Easter Road.
Collins becomes the 15th player to leave Easter Road since the end of the season, when Terry Butcher’s side were relegated to the SPFL Championship in a dramatic play-off capitulation to Hamilton. Collins was left on the bench for both legs of the play-off and his last outing for the club came in their final Premiership fixture of the campaign – a 1-0 defeat to Kilmarnock.
Collins was signed from Swindon Town by Butcher’s predecessor Pat Fanlon – the deal going through shortly after Hibs’ humbling 7-0 defeat to Malmo in the Europa League qualifiers.
The 6ft 2in target man made his debut in a 1-0 defeat against Motherwell at Easter Road, and scored his first goal for the club at the sixth time of asking against St Johnstone.
He did manage a brace against St Mirren in a 3-2 defeat on 18 January, but that was the last time he found the net and, clearly lacking confidence, he often found himself dropped to the bench under Butcher as Hibs flirted with then succumbed to relegation.
The Coventry-born forward, who represented the Republic of Ireland at under-21 level, now joins Shrewsbury on a two-year contract. Collins first enjoyed a spell at the Shropshire club on loan from Aston Villa in 2011.
Hibs chief executive Leeann Dempster, who joined the club on Monday, said yesterday:
“Everybody connected to the club would like to wish James all the best as he embarks on the next chapter of his career. We’ve agreed a mutually beneficial deal with Shrewsbury and now we move on.”
Collins follows ex-captain James McPake, former Scotland midfielder Kevin Thomson and goalkeeper Ben Williams out the door after Butcher told the group their contracts would not be renewed. Also released were Paul Cairney, Bradley Donaldson, David Gold, Paul Grant, Dean Horribine, Alan Maybury, Sean Murdoch and Tom Taiwo, while loan players Daniel Boateng, Danny Haynes and Duncan Watmore have all gone back to their parent clubs.
Shrewsbury Town’s chief executive Matt Williams welcomed the return of Collins to the Sky Bet League Two outfit, who were relegated from League One last season.
“It is a fantastic signing for us and I’m sure that the return of Collo will please the Town fans,” he said.
“James has been our number one target and a lot of time and effort from the chairman and manager has gone into this deal and we are delighted to have reached an agreement with
Hibs to secure James for the next two years.”