EFE AMBROSE is adamant he has no regrets about the contentious switch to Derby County which left him in the football wilderness – because it allowed him to learn at the feet of his ‘hero’ Frank Lampard.
However, the former Hibernian and Celtic defender is ready to re-ignite his career by bolstering Livingston’s unlikely pursuit of European football.
Ambrose, 31, completed a shock transfer to the Lions on Tuesday, with the Nigerian internationalist underlining his commitment to the cause by signing a contract until the summer of 2021.
Should he feature against his erstwhile employers at Easter Road on Saturday, it will be his first competitive outing in close to 14 months, having failed to make a single appearances for the Rams after exercising a clause in his contract allowing him to quit Hibs in January 2019.
Nevertheless, the irrepressible Ambrose is typically keen to accentuate the positives after leaving Pride Park last June.
“I have missed playing football but do I regret the move to Derby? No, you cannot regret things in football or life,” he said. “The most important thing was what I learned from Derby.
“I didn’t have the chance to play but I did not regret it. It was an experience for me and they really helped me and developed me.
“I took a lot from my time there: the training, the intensity and quality of the players and seeing the work of a great coach in Frank Lampard.
“I can say I worked with the Chelsea manager! He is a good guy, I great personality and my hero. I have always supported Chelsea when he was there so it was very special to work with him.”
Ambrose adds: “But football doesn’t stop and, if you don’t get a chance somewhere, you’ll get the chance somewhere else. Today I have my chance to play at Livingston and show what I can do again.”
In different circumstances, he would have been afforded that platform by St Mirren.
“There was interest in me [while a free agent] but nothing concrete,” he continued, explaining eight months without a club. “The only thing I had was St Mirren but Livingston came first and I chose them instead.”
The seismic surprise at seeing Ambrose arrive at the Tony Macaroni Arena was exacerbated by the fact no-one got wind of the deal.
The talks were kept admirably under wraps despite the fact the experienced defender was in attendance at Ibrox, of all places, to watch Livi lose 1-0 on Sunday.
“Nobody thought Efe Ambrose would be in Scotland so no-one noticed me,” he laughed. “And I kept my hat on so no-one could get a look at me.”
He is, however, unlikely to be so inconspicuous when he steps back onto the pitch.
Ambrose boasts six major honours from five years at Celtic, played in the last-16 of the Champions League, won the Championship title at Hibs and boasts an Africa Cup of Nations triumph during a Nigeria career which, to date, has heralded 51 caps.
Even if some like to poke fun at his occasional high-profile errors, this is a man ready-made for the bid to make Livingston’s European dream a reality.
“The league position is exciting and has really inspired me,” Ambrose continued. “I saw the level they are at and where they’re pushing to be.
“You never know at the end of the season if we’ll be in Europe or the top-six, but nothing is impossible.”
It is difficult to overstate the influence Marvin Bartley – Livingston midfielder and Ambrose’s ex-Hibs teammate – had in making this move happen.
The pair have remained firm friends since going their separate ways and, even while Ambrose was training on his own in Nigeria, the Englishman’s persistent endorsements regarding life at Livi clearly paid off.
“Marv’s word means a lot,” added Ambrose. “If Marv is enjoying being a club, then there is something special.
“I know the reputation of this club: tough, hard to beat. The team is strong, they fight together and the spirit in the club is good.”
Ambrose could not not have picked a more fitting time to come into the club.
Livingston travel to Easter Road on Saturday and, judging by the amount of Hibs fans on social media yesterday lamenting the fact he did not re-sign for them, he seems assured a warm welcome.
Then they host Celtic and the boisterous travelling contingent are sure to remind Ambrose of the affinity they retain for him.
“It is just football – Brother plays against brother, friend plays against friend,” smiled Ambrose. “On the pitch, I will concentrate on Livingston. Away from the pitch I will always have my friends at Hibs and Celtic.”