Thierry swayed by the French connection

THIERRY GATHEUSSI today revealed how Hibs' growing reputation in France for playing classy football convinced him Easter Road was the place for him.

But John Collins' latest signing endured many sleepless nights before his dream came true as negotiations appeared to have collapsed - only to be revived in the shape of a two-year deal.

And 25-year-old Gatheussi disclosed he'd turned down more financially attractive offers from elsewhere, so sure was he that he'd enjoy his football in Edinburgh.

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Spotted in a trial match especially staged at Hibs' current training ground at Muirhouse towards the end of last season, Gathuessi impressed Collins during the club's pre-season trip to Austria.

However, as negotiations dragged on, Collins warned the Cameroon internationalist he was in danger of missing out before declaring the deal dead - leaving him fearing the worst.

Gatheussi, signed from French side FC Sete, said: "I had lots of nights without sleep. I was clear in my mind that I wanted to come to Hibs but there were other things that delayed the transfer.

"My big worry was that if I waited too long Hibs might say it was too late, that they'd picked someone else. It was a hard time for me because I'd decided from day one I wanted to be here as the manager had put a lot of trust in me, taking me to Austria, and that helped me make up my mind."

Although he had one year left on his contract with FC Sete, Gatheussi had an agreement he could leave if a bigger club came in for him and although Hibs weren't the only interested party, he set his heart on coming to Easter Road where, he revealed, he felt comfortable with so many French speakers, including Collins.

He said: "There was more money on offer from another club but to me it is all about enjoying your football, perhaps elsewhere I'd have found myself not playing or with a manager who didn't understand me or the language.

"At Hibs the manager and other players speak French which will help me integrate into the team and although my English isn't very good the other players really do make an effort to try to understand me when I speak and that helps a lot.

"I played against Guillaume Beuzelin four years ago when he was with Le Havre and I was playing for Montpellier so he is something of a familiar face."

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Hibs' French connection has, of course, been strong for almost a decade with Franck Sauzee, David Zitelli and Freddy Arpinon signed during Alex McLeish's spell as manager, the link continued with the arrival of Yannick Zambernardi and latterly Beuzelin.

With new goalkeeper Yves Ma-Kalambay acting as interpreter Gatheussi said: "The word that goes around in France is that Hibs are a good football team, the players are not scared to play with the ball and develop the game into a football match rather than just kick the ball long and chase it up the pitch.

"My friend Salomon Olembe [a Cameroon international midfielder], who had a spell with Leeds United on loan from Marseille, told me that if I wanted to go somewhere in Scotland then he'd recommend Hibs.

"And the reputation Hibs have in France has been proved to be pretty much true in the time I have been here. In training and the friendly I played in you could see Hibs play football to a high level so their reputation is justified."

Although he believes he will thrive in the style of football which Collins espouses, Gatheussi accepted he could be in for something of a culture shock in the SPL.

He said: "There is a massive difference, in France if someone touches you it is a foul but in Scotland it seems you can be tackled up to the neck and the referee lets play go on.

"Having said that, however, I am up for the challenge."

Hibs fans will, most probably, get their first glimpse of Gatheussi in action tomorrow night when Collins' side face Bolton Wanderers at Easter Road, a match which will be followed by a visit from Middlesbrough on Saturday.

And Gathuessi, who played against Chelsea stars Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda in France, admitted he's excited at the prospect of playing two English Premiership sides in quick succession just as he is at the notion of kicking off the new SPL season by facing Capital rivals Hearts at Tynecastle - a clash which he already knows a lot about thanks to former Jambo favourite Julien Brellier.

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He said: "When he heard I had signed for Hibs, Julien phoned me and we spoke for a long time. He told me the most important game for Hearts is against Hibs and that neither team wants to lose.

"People have already been talking about the derby and the vibe about the game is already pretty big.

"But to me it is important to win each game, the next match after Hearts is just as important.

"But I am looking forward to tomorrow night, to have the chance to play in front of the Hibs fans for the first time and I'm determined to enjoy every moment of it."

Gatheussi also hopes his move to Scotland will help him revive his international career which began in 2004 when he made his debut against Bulgaria, the Cameroon Football Federation having only yesterday advertised for a new coach despite caretaker boss Jules Nyongha having a 100 per cent record in qualifying for next year's African Nations Cup.

He said: "It is every player's ambition to play for his country and I hope that by playing for Hibs the national team will call me back.

"But before I can even start thinking about that I have to play well for Hibs and make an impact in Scotland."

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