WELSH international midfielder Owain Tudur Jones today signed a two-year deal with Hibs, revealing the prospect of a new challenge and Europa League football were behind his move to Easter Road.
And Hibs boss Pat Fenlon, who has already captured St Johnstone star Liam Craig on a pre-contract deal, was set for further joy today with Ryan McGivern confirming he’s to stay in Edinburgh for the next two seasons following his successful loan spell from Manchester City. Tudur Jones played a pivotal role in steering Inverness Caley to fourth place in the SPL table last season, a period he described as probably the most enjoyable of his career as he racked up 39 appearances for the Highlands outfit.
Caley manager Terry Butcher was desperate to keep the 6ft 3in player, but Tudur Jones spurned the offer of a new deal in favour of a switch to the Capital – as predicted by the Evening News earlier this week.
Capped six times by Wales, Tudur Jones said: “The move to Hibs is a fresh challenge and one I’m really excited about. Throughout my career, I’ve always chased new challenges and not wanted to stand still.
“Now I see Hibs as a challenge for myself – to help the club finish as high as possible in the table which is where the club should be.
“Last season was probably the most enjoyable of my career so far. That was the best season in Inverness’ history, to finish where we did was a great achievement.
“It’s a diifferent challenge now with Hibs and I want to add to the team and help Hibs to become stronger.”
Caley missed out on European football themselves, beaten by Highland rivals Ross County in the final game of the season as they were pipped to the last Europa League place by St Johnstone, but now Tudur Jones is relishing playing in that competition, Hibs having qualified as Scottish Cup finalists.
Fenlon’s players will find out who their second qualifying round opponents will be when the draw is made at UEFA’s Swiss headquarters in Nyon on June 24, and Tudur Jones believes it will be a valuable experience for him and his new team-mates.
He said: “I’m looking forward to playing for Hibs in Europe. It’s something a little bit different and it will be a great experience. Playing against different teams from different countries will be great for the continued development of the squad and it’s something to get excited about.”
Although Hibs finished in the bottom half of the table, Tudur Jones insisted the Edinburgh club is moving forward. He said: “I played at Easter Road twice last season – once in the semi-final of the League Cup – and I could feel the size of the club.
“There was definite progress over the past 12 months and there is a good platform for us to build on, and I will be looking to play my part in helping the club to drive forward.”
Fenlon believes Tudur Jones and Craig will strengthen Hibs’ midfield, saying: “We’re really pleased to be able to introduce both Owain and Liam to the squad for the new season. They are both experienced midfielders, who know what the SPL is all about and will add some further physicality and creativity to the side.”
Meanwhile, McGivern is understood to have turned down offers from down south to sign a deal which will make him a Hibs player on a permanent basis when his contract with City expires at the end of next month. The Northern Ireland defender made 32 appearances for Hibs last season and it is believed the prospect of regular first-team football, having spent virtually all his time with City on loan, and Europe have convinced him to remain in Scotland.
Nike are to replace Puma in providing Hibs’ playing kit, the Easter Road club having struck a four-year deal with the sportswear giant. Next season’s strip will be unveiled next Friday.