BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
HIBERNIAN goalkeeper Ofir Marciano insists he is ready to settle down in Scotland as he prepares to become a dad a for the first time.
The 27-year-old is expecting a baby boy with his wife Shelly in October and, after falling in love with Edinburgh during his loan spell at Easter Road last season, always had his heart set on a permanent return to the club.
After protracted negotiations between Hibs and previous parent club Ashdod, a £150,000 switch was finally agreed earlier this month and the towering stopper wasted no time in penning a bumper four-year contract with Neil Lennon’s men.
And Marciano cannot wait to embark on a thrilling new chapter of his life, on and off the pitch.
He beamed: “Edinburgh is a great place and a great city to live and to raise kids. We really like it here.
“Soon I will have a family so things are different for me now. I now need to consider other things that I didn’t have to think about before I was married.
“The most important thing is that I’m feeling good and am happy. In life and in football, that is the most important thing.
“I feel good and my wife likes it here, so I really appreciate being here.
“Of course, in football, anything can happen – one day you’re here and in six months you never know where you’re going to be, but I was always confident it would get sorted because I wanted to be here and the club wanted me.
“When these two things happen, there is a good chance it will go in the right direction.
“I am happy it is finally done and I am back here focused on having a good season.
“I think Hibs is a good club for my career to develop at. It’s a good place with many good people who I really connect with. They treat me well, and that’s something you cannot disrespect because it is not always the case in football.”
He added with a smile: “I don’t know if our baby will have a Scottish accent! We’ll need to wait and see.”
Marciano was a standout for the Hibees last season, keeping 13 clean sheets in 28 appearances as they claimed the Championship title and reached the Scottish Cup semi-final.
His fine form also saw the towering stopper reclaim his place in the Israel starting line-up, winning his 11th cap for his country against Spain in March.
While he acknowledges this season will represent a step up in class, Marciano has no trepidation about embarking on Hibs’ first top-flight campaign since 2013/14.
He continued: “We are a big club – one of the biggest clubs in Scotland – and people know that, so there is no fear about going into the top league. It is our natural place to be in the top league.
“However, we need to prove every week that we deserve to be there. People think it was easy to get promoted but it wasn’t – everyone at the club worked hard last year to get up. This year we will have to do even better to show that we should be in the top league.”
Marciano will take his place between the sticks for this afternoon’s Easter Road curtain-raiser against Montrose in the Betfred Cup – an encounter which, head coach Neil Lennon acknowledges, straddles a middle-ground between competitive match and pre-season friendly.
Lennon added: “Obviously we need to be competitive, we will give Montrose the utmost respect and go as strong as we can because the players need to get up to speed. But it is still very, very early, we are only three weeks back and some of the lads haven’t played 90 minutes yet, so we are still building up.
“Nevertheless it’s a game we want to win and start the group well.
“I’d imagine it’ll be another chance for some of the youngsters. The squad is still a little thin. I’ve been very pleased with a few of them for a long time and a couple will get another chance.”