HIBERNIAN moved quickly yesterday to secure the signature of Hearts striker James Keatings, who left the Tynecastle club on Friday by mutual consent.
The 23-year-old forward, who scored 11 times for Hearts in their successful Championship title-winning season, is now bidding to win his third successive promotion to the Premiership.
Crucially, having signed a two-year deal with Hibs, the striker is eager to finally reap the rewards of earning promotion to the top tier. On each of the last two occasions, he has left in the summer before sampling top-flight football.
Keatings revealed he turned down offers from current Premiership clubs in order to try his luck again in the Championship, where he has been such a lucky emblem for both Hearts and Hamilton Accies.
Keatings earned promotion with Hamilton in 2013-14, playing in the first leg of the play-off final win over Hibs. Although he had scored 15 goals for Hamilton, he opted to move to Hearts that summer on a two-year deal.
Again he reached double figures with the Tynecastle side, including scoring a hat-trick in a 4-0 win over Raith Rovers. He played twice against Hibs last season but did not score in either game.
“I believe the manager here can make me become a much better player”James Keatings
In total, Keatings made 33 appearances for Hearts but was told by head coach Robbie Neilson that he would struggle for regular game time in the Premiership. He left the club on Friday despite having another 12 months remaining of his contract.
Keatings becomes the latest to move between the two Edinburgh clubs, following Fraser Mullen’s switch from Hearts to Hibs in June 2013. Other cross-city moves include Michael Stewart, who joined Hearts from Hibs in 2007, and Brian Hamilton, who moved in the same direction in 1995.
Keatings has now made it his aim to achieve a hat-trick of promotions. “I am delighted to sign for the club and I definitely believe Hibs can go up as champions,” he told Hibs TV yesterday. “I saw the quality in the team whenever I played against them last season and Hibs probably deserved more than they achieved.
“But there’s a new season coming up now and I’ll be aiming to make it three promotions for me and I’m sure the club will be targeting that too.”
Keatings is relishing the prospect of working with manager Alan Stubbs. “I had other options to go elsewhere and to play in the Premiership,” he said. “But one of the big factors that persuaded me to come here was the manager and I believe he can make me become a much better player.
“Hibs are a big club and the manager has ambitious plans for the future,” he added. “Everything pointed towards this move being the right decision for me and my career.”
Stubbs welcomed the quick capture of Keatings, who will be presented to the media at a briefing this afternoon. “James will bring goals to the team and we’re delighted to add him to the squad,” he said. “It’s an area where I thought we did well last season, but it’s an area where we can improve. We’re delighted to sign James and the fact he wanted to come here.”