Jake Doyle-Hayes insists he has no intention of leaving Hibernian any time soon despite his future at the club being placed in doubt in January.
The Hibees accepted an offer from Forest Green Rovers for the Irish midfielder in the last transfer window, although manager Lee Johnson said at the time he would be happy to retain the 24-year-old as part of his squad if he decided to remain at Easter Road.
Doyle-Hayes, who recently returned after a long-term ankle injury, declined the chance to move south, and as he addressed his mooted departure for the first time ahead of Saturday’s cinch Premiership match at home to Motherwell, he said he felt “settled” in Edinburgh.
“For me, no,” said Doyle-Hayes, when asked if the Forest Green move was close to coming off. “I didn’t want to leave here.
“I’m settled here. I know I wasn’t playing much football but I wanted to get fit, get back in the team and fight for my place. I’ve got a young family who are settled here. We love the city and I love playing for the club so I was really happy to stay.
“I’m not looking to leave and go anywhere else. I’m happy here.”
Doyle-Hayes has endured a frustrating campaign so far, with an ankle problem – which required surgery in the autumn – keeping him sidelined for most of it.
The Hibees’ last match, a 3-1 defeat away to Celtic a fortnight ago, saw the former St Mirren player start for the first time since August and he is desperate to re-establish himself in the centre of Johnson’s midfield.
“It’s been tough not playing,” said Doyle-Hayes. “I haven’t had many seasons like this where I’ve not been playing because of a long-term injury but it’s just part of football. I’ve seen other players have long-term injuries. I’m just happy to be back.
“I played against Celtic and hopefully I can keep my place and keep building from there. I was hoping to get back in as soon as possible after the injury, so to get put back in a big game like that was a big confidence booster.
“I just want to keep the shirt and play as much as I can for the rest of the season, and hopefully help the team get a European place.”
Hibs are currently fifth in the cinch Premiership, a point below Aberdeen and five adrift of city rivals Hearts, while Livingston and St Mirren are both lurking behind within two points.
Johnson’s side host Motherwell on Saturday as they bid to boost their European hopes.
“All the games are massive now for the rest of the season,” said Doyle-Hayes. “It’s so tight where we are so every point really matters.”