Ronny Deila gave Niklas Gunnarsson green light for Hibs move

New Hibernian defender 
Niklas Gunnarsson already had his heart set on a move to Easter Road as soon as the Leith club stepped up their interest in signing him on loan this month.

New Hibernian defender 
Niklas Gunnarsson already had his heart set on a move to Easter Road as soon as the Leith club stepped up their interest in signing him on loan this month.

However, any lingering apprehension that the 24-year-old still harboured about his impending switch was soon soothed during a conversation with fellow Norwegian Ronny Deila.

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Celtic manager Deila obviously has faith in Hibs counterpart Alan Stubbs’ ability to nurture young talent, given that midfielder Liam Henderson is enjoying a season-long loan at Easter Road from the Parkhead club.

And Gunnarsson, who has joined on a loan deal until the end of the season from Valerenga in his homeland, was convinced he had made the right move following a chat with Deila.

“I know Ronny Deila and (Celtic midfielder) Stefan Johansen,” said Gunnarsson, who is in line to make his debut in tomorrow’s Scottish Cup fourth-round tie at Raith Rovers.

“I’ve met Ronny a couple of times and I’ve played against Stefan.

“I talked to Ronny about Hibs and he said very good things about the club, he said they are a big club and should be in the Premiership. He said very good things.

“I was already in Scotland when I called him but I just wanted to hear what he thought about the club and he gave good references.”

Gunnarsson admits the Norwegian connection at Celtic means he now has a greater knowledge of the Scottish game.

He added: “When Deila and Stefan came to Celtic the profile in Norway of Scottish football increased.

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“Of course, before Tore Andre Flo played for Rangers but he wasn’t very good, as I remember.

“They bought him for a lot of money and he was amazing at Chelsea.

“The football here in the UK is big in Norway. We love watching both English and Scottish football.”

If the affable Gunnarsson, who also spent time on loan at Swedish side Elfsborg last year, plays as well on the park as he speaks off it then his loan stint is sure to be a success.

Although his immediate priority is to make an impact during the second half of the season, the right-back also has one eye on the future.

He added: “I’m taking a degree in sports management. I just want to do something besides football in the future.

“Sadly I can’t play football when I’m 50 so I am taking some classes and I’ll be finished in one year.

“It’s an online course just for footballers in Scandinavia. The study is in Denmark so everything is online, all the exams and everything is by Skype. It suits me just fine.

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“We have a lot of spare time so this is instead of playing Fifa or sleeping.

“That’s fine, I did that for two years, but then I thought, ‘yeah’ – I can do school for two or three hours every day and that’s not much. I have the time.”

Although his initial contract is only a loan agreement, Gunnarsson could make the move permanent should he impress.

He added: “If I perform good that is the most important thing. Then we will see what happens.

“But my first impression of Hibs is good. I like the team and all the players and I’m happy to be here.

“If both parties are happy then there is an agreement.

“I’ve still got one and a half years on my contract in Norway and it suits me fine to be here for six months.

“Elfsborg had the option to buy me but it was a bit too much. They offered and it was not accepted so I went back to Norway.”

Gunnarsson describes himself as a right-back that will convert into a centre-half as he gets older.

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But he also possesses an attribute that is sure to cause problems for opposition defences.

“My long throw is my trademark,” he said. “I can throw one or two metres inside the post and it’s normally a good weapon.

“It depends how the team wants to play. When I do the long throw we push all our big players forward. So we will see about that.”

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