Hibs signing news: Stephane Omeonga returns to Easter Road

Stephane Omeonga has returned to Hibernian on loan until the end of the season and says “it feels like home”.
Stephane Omeonga has rejoined Hibs on loan until the end of the season.Stephane Omeonga has rejoined Hibs on loan until the end of the season.
Stephane Omeonga has rejoined Hibs on loan until the end of the season.

The midfielder made a big impact during his spell in the second half of last term and was a huge favourite with fans who were disappointed that the Easter Road club were unable to strike a deal with his parent club Genoa over the summer.

But, having fought off interest from other Italian clubs, they have welcomed the 23-year-old Belgian player back to Leith.

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“I’m really happy to be back at Hibernian. It feels like home,” said the player who made 17 appearances for Hibs last season. “When I left it felt like I had unfinished business and I said as much at the time. As soon as I heard there was a chance for me to come back I jumped at it.

“It is a special club. I kept in touch with the staff, the players and followed the games and from my last game, it feels like not a day has gone by without me getting a nice message from a Hibs supporter on social media and that stays with you. It means a lot.

“It was great to see the boys again at HTC and to get a chance to talk properly to the gaffer. I can’t wait to pull the strip back on and show how hungry I am to be involved.”

His new manager is just as thrilled to sign him up, having been regaled with tales of the popular player and the attributes he brings.

“It’s rare for a player to have made such a good impression on so many people throughout a club in such a short period of time,” said Jack Ross. “I’d seen enough myself to know what he offers, but it was good to hear others singing his praises. He adds energy, tenacity and quality to give us a different option in midfield.”

With Stevie Mallan ruled out due to injury it bolsters the mood in the camp as they head into vital cup action.

Ross is no fool. He knows why Hibs’ Scottish Cup tie against Dundee United on Sunday is being televised. Some have pegged it as the possible shock of the round and he understands the reasons.

Thanks to the top-flight shutdown, his side have been out of the competitive groove for three weeks, and before that the form was inconsistent. In contrast, their fourth-round rivals have been running rampant at the top of the Championship, piecing together a 12-game unbeaten run, which includes an impressive 11 victories.

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For some, that is the recipe for a spot of giant-killing. But bitter experience has shown Ross that if his men turn up, the lower league side shouldn’t stand a chance of progressing.

He was in the Clyde team which, when faced with similar circumstances in 2001, fancied their chances of upsetting the odds. They had a rude awakening. Battered 6-1 by a Hibs side which included Franck Sauzee, Russell Latapy and Mixu Paatelainen, they trudged off at full-time with ambitions shattered.

“For me, that was a learning experience. We went there rather naively, as a Clyde team in good league form, thinking that Hibs had been away for a few weeks, they would have enjoyed their three weeks and not really trained properly. It couldn’t have been any further from the truth. I think it was about six-nil after 55 minutes, an absolute doing!”

It actually took them 63 minutes to grab the six goals but Ross can be forgiven for feeling slightly punch drunk by that stage.

“It was a short, sharp reminder to me, as a young player, that these players are good. They’re playing at that club for a reason. Sometimes you don’t quite appreciate that until you’re up against them.”

That meeting fuels Ross’s belief that if his men perform well, even the in-form United will find it tough to keep pace, which is why he ensured that the winter break was punctuated by friendlies and bounce games.

“There are no guarantees but you just try to cover as many bases as you can,” he said. “We had a match in Spain. Then we had a bounce match against Motherwell on Tuesday. It allowed us to get game minutes. “It was competitive, in a good way. But for both sets of players they also both got out of it, physically, what they would get out of a game.”