The arrival of Efe Ambrose on a permanent deal not only serves as a sign of Hibernian’s ambitions, it will also provide every other Hibs player with an example of exactly what it takes to play at the highest level in this country and compete with Europe’s elite.
The defender, who thrived during a short-term loan spell at Easter Road at the end of last season, is expected to formalise a two-year stay at Easter Road, subject to international clearance. It is a piece of business former Hibs captain Kevin Thomson welcomes.
He also traded one of the Old Firm sides for Hibernian and knows that while there are different expectation levels, the fact that Ambrose has proved himself able to deal with the heady concoction of highs at Celtic – high hopes, high demands and the highs associated with success – makes him a valuable acquisition.
“It’s definitely a bonus for Hibs. He has been at Celtic and will want to win things,” said Thomson. “That’s what happens when you have been at either of the Old Firm clubs – you are expected to win things because that is what people demand of you. You are expected to win every game, that is instilled in you, and you have to learn to live with that pressure and you put demands on yourself as a professional and on your team-mates.
“The biggest thing for Efe will be adapting to the fact that he will now be playing against Celtic rather than playing for them. Now he will be one of the underdogs but he will still want to win. You don’t lose that.
“I don’t know Efe as a person but speaking to Scott Brown [the Celtic captain], he tells me he is quite quiet but shows leadership qualities on the pitch and the other players at Hibs will learn a lot from him and his professionalism.
“We have promising young players at the club, guys like John [McGinn] and Jason [Cummings] and it will be an eye opener for them to see what it takes to make it at one of the top clubs and see how professional the likes of Old Firm players have to be.
“There are already very good players at Hibs but he knows what it teakes to operate at the top of the Premiership and in Champions League. He will show you can always improve if you push, push, push.”
Thomson, who still gets to as many Hibs games as a he can, while combining it with his blossoming academy venture, knows that Ambrose has already been granted cult status by many Leith fans but he says that the defender’s time at Celtic will have prepared him for the testing moments that may materialise throughout the capital side’s first season back in the top flight.
“Speaking to friends and from what I saw, Efe walked through the games in the Championship,” said Thomson. “But he knows that things will be tougher in the Premiership. There will be wee runs when results don’t go for them and some fans will criticise him at some stage. That’s the nature of football.
“But the good thing about being at any of the Old Firm clubs is that it gives you a thick skin, and you learn how to deal with any negativity and come back even more determined.”
Used to success at Celtic, the switch to Hibs last term delivered more of the same and Ambrose somersaulted his way through the Championship title celebrations. The fact he offers competition in the centre of defence will also lift performance levels. With Darren McGregor, Paul Hanlon and Liam Fontaine all signed up for the new campaign, the tussle for starting berths is something Hibs head coach Neil Lennon will want to replicate all over the pitch.
“It is good that he has managed to get so much business done early,” said Thomson. “There is strength at the back and if the deal with Whitty [Steven Whittaker] goes through then he can play either right or left-back.
“There’s alsoDanny Swanson and Simon Murray but I would like to see another couple of signings up top. That will send a powerful message and getting the business done early means they can get a good pre-season together and hopefully start the season well.”