How Hibs' Jordan Obita nearly quit football: three ops, being England starlet, team-mate of Harry Kane, Euro hopes

Jordan Obita scored his first Hibs goal in the 3-1 win over FC Luzern on Thursday.Jordan Obita scored his first Hibs goal in the 3-1 win over FC Luzern on Thursday.
Jordan Obita scored his first Hibs goal in the 3-1 win over FC Luzern on Thursday.
Given that less than five years ago Jordan Obita was seriously considering giving up on football, it is clear his maiden goal for Hibs was a hugely significant one in the context of his career as well as for his new club’s European ambitions.

Now 29, the wide man rubbed shoulders with some serious talent in the England youth sides. Counting the likes of Harry Kane, Eric Dier, James Ward-Prowse and Rangers keeper Jack Butland amongst his age-grade team-mates, Obita played twice and scored once for the under-21s at the renowned Toulon Tournament in France in 2014.

With Kane now worth £100 million and others still gracing the English Premier League, Obita has seen his career tread a different path. A serious knee injury in 2017 kept him sidelined for a nightmare 23 months before he made a successful comeback in August 2019. As he prepared for a third operation to repair his anterior cruciate ligament, the then Reading player has revealed he needed the persuasive intervention of his family around Christmas 2018 to convince him to carry on in the game. That is why the summer signing admits moments like Thursday night, when he slashed in Hibs’ final goal in a pulsating 3-1 victory over Luzern in the Europa Conference League, mean so much more.

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“That [England under-21s] squad was unbelievable, to play with the likes of Harry Kane and these boys,” Obita said. “They’ve done really well. I’ve done well also but I can do more. I had my injuries but I’ve overcome them and I’m trying to get myself back up to the top divisions.

Obita represented England at the Toulon Tournament in 2014.Obita represented England at the Toulon Tournament in 2014.
Obita represented England at the Toulon Tournament in 2014.

“I don’t keep in touch with these guys but if I ever come across them we’ll say ‘hi'. When we played against each other in cup games there was always that respect that we used to play together. But they’ve obviously done unbelievably. I don’t think at the time Harry was always starting but I could see in training, off both feet, all he wanted was goals. As you can see now, he’s a £100 million player. Fair play to him, he’s done very well.

“I did really well but I had a serious injury for two years, which put me back. That’s why I’m glad I’m playing at a really good level now because I’ve now overcome the injuries I had before and I’ve stepped up a level. Of course it makes you appreciate things more. At one point I didn’t know if I was coming back and to come back after two full seasons and now be on the European stage is pretty good. At my age now, you never think you’re going to get there, and to do it, I’m really happy.”

Obita played almost 200 games for Reading before leaving in 2020 and, after subsequent spells with Oxford United and Wycombe Wanderers, is relishing a fresh challenge north of the border. “I’m only 29 years old and I also feel I can keep improving,” he said ahead of Sunday’s Premiership encounter with Motherwell. “I try my hardest every day on the pitch and that’s all I can do.

“Europe’s a big attraction for anybody. I’d never played in Europe before, in England you need to get to the Premier League for that. Also, the league, the manager, everybody. It wasn’t just one thing, it was the whole package. I’m glad the management and the staff put faith in me to come up here and be a part of it. I’m loving it.”