De Graaf was drawn to Hibs after spellbinding 6-6 epic

LIKE the new stand which is taking shape on the east side of the ground, Edwin de Graaf hopes to be a sturdy addition to the scene at Easter Road.

The new Hibernian midfielder was unveiled yesterday at the stadium, and offered an assessment of himself that is bound to please supporters.

The 6ft 1in Dutchman informed the fans of his credentials and left no-one in any doubt of his commitment to a team he fell for on the night of the epic 6-6 draw with Motherwell at the end of last season. He saw a match which raged from one end to the other, and knew instantly he could be a boon to the Scottish game.

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Still in the process of deciding his future when sitting in the Fir Park stand, he had his mind made up by the time the final whistle blew on that remarkable evening. De Graaf deduced that his own game was suited to this environment, where the sophistication showcased by his compatriots will not necessarily thrive. Fortunately, De Graaf, by his own admission, insults his own background by being more blood-and-thunder than Total Football.

"They play more kick-and-rush in Scotland (than in the Netherlands]," he said. "But then my type of game is the same as they play here. I am a box-to-box player. They know me as someone who runs for 90 minutes in Holland. I think Scottish football and myself are good for each other. I think I will bring passion, I work very hard. I am a team player. I hope I score a lot of goals too."

He was attracted by the glut of scoring opportunities he observed being taken - and passed up - at Fir Park in May, when Hibs let slip a 6-2 lead to draw 6-6 at Motherwell. "It was a crazy game," he recalled. "I was sitting next to my agent, and I was like: what is happening here? I had never seen this before. But after the game there was only one option; that was Hibernian."

Subsequent conversations with manager John Hughes and chairman Rod Petrie merely helped confirm what he had concluded; Hibs are the club for him. Even the scantest knowledge of De Graaf's career reveals why supporters are excited by the the new signing. Great store is being placed in De Graaf's experience in the Dutch Eredevisie with the likes of Feyenoord and NAC Breda, while his appearances for the Dutch B team in the early part of the last decade is another reason for encouragement.

De Graaf played alongside the likes of Wesley Sneijder, currently seen starring for the Netherlands in the World Cup. But the new Hibs signing is a realist. He was already 21 when called up by for international side's second string and playing for RBC Roosendaal. Sneijder was just 17 and already in the Ajax first-team. "I played with some big players," he recalled. "Some of those I played with in the B team are now at the World Cup. I also played at Feyenoord with (Dirk] Kuyt. For me it was a big step (to the international scene]. I played with a small club - RBC. All the other guys played with Ajax and Feyenoord and other big clubs in Holland."

But De Graaf hopes to bring this experience to bear on Hibs, and can also provide some Europa League know-how. The Easter Road club are preparing to take their bow in the competition next month, and the Dutchman will be a valuable asset. He played in the competition for NAC Breda last season although succumbed at the play-off round stage, when pitched against Villarreal. But he scored five goals over three rounds, including one against the Spanish club.

This helped to bring De Graaf to the attention of Barnsley, Blackpool and Bristol Rovers. He might also have signed for the German side Duisburg this summer, while a new life in the States with DC United was another possibility. But Edinburgh proved a beguiling prospect for the father of two young sons aged three and one, with the testimonials provided by the likes of Michael Mols and Dorus de Vries another factor in the decision to continue his career in the Scottish Premier League. Both the former Rangers striker and one-time Dunfermline ‘keeper are ex-team-mates.

"I called Michael, and he said: ‘listen, if you can go to Hibs then it is one of the biggest clubs in Scotland, after Rangers and Celtic'," said De Graaf, who has already begun to be a poster-boy for the Easter Road club. He helped launch the Hibs Kids Membership scheme yesterday, which hopes to help encourage young supporters under the age of 15 to make it along to Easter Road.

The Dutch player's two sons, Demy and Leroy, are already members.

Meanwhile Scott Taggart, the current Hibernian Academy Player of the Year, has signed a new two-year deal to stay at the club.