I don’t want to go back to Italy, says Hibs midfielder Stephane Omeonga
The Serie A side are teetering on the brink of relegation and Omeonga makes no secret that a drop into the second tier holds little appeal. Even less tantalising is the prospect of a return to the club by the man who sidelined him during his previous tenure.
“They have four games left and they have to win points otherwise it could be bad. I have two years left on my contract and there is no clause in my contract but, yes, things will change,” said Omeonga.
“I changed a lot of coaches there. I don’t know [why things went wrong] but the first season I got there I played 23 games so it was all good. I was away with the national team all the time [the Under-21s]
and then the next season everything changed quickly. I didn’t understand.
“It was the same coach who I had finished the season with, I was just not part of his plan anymore. I was going to go back to Belgium, there were clubs who were interested. Standard Liege, Ostend and some good teams, but the deal fell through and I stayed but just didn’t play.
“Davide Ballardini was the coach and I was reading in a few places that maybe he is going to come back so…”
It would make a return unattractive and, most likely, unproductive, which is the opposite to his spell spent in Edinburgh.
“I came here because the first manager [Neil Lennon] wanted me. Obviously the club wanted me too but for football players it means a lot if the gaffer tells you, or even if he doesn’t say it but shows you, that he feels you add value to his team.
“When I heard the news that Lennon was leaving I thought ‘Wow, what am I going to do?’ Then the first week I didn’t play so I thought, ‘Oh, this is going to be difficult’. But I didn’t want to go back to Italy, no, because it was worse in Italy!”
Those early jitters proved unfounded as new boss Paul Heckingbottom quickly sussed how pivotal Omeonga could be as the Leith side racked up points and moved up the table, and there is still hope that another three points against rivals Hearts today could enhance Hibs’ chances of still sneaking a Europa League place, something that seemed unthinkable at the turn of the year.
“I like the way he works,” said the midfielder of his current boss, who has admitted he would be happy to hold on to him into the new term. “My English is not so good so we don’t talk so much but he has taught me a lot since he came and keeps teaching me every day.”