Rocky Bushiri feels his first year at Hibernian has helped revive his career after an injury-hit spell at Norwich.
The 23-year-old moved to Easter Road on loan from the Canaries last January and then made the move permanent in the summer.
The former Belgium Under-21 centre-back struggled for form in the early part of 2022 but appears to have established himself as a first-choice under manager Lee Johnson this term.
“I came from an injury to Hibs, and Hibs have given me the opportunity to play professional football again,” he said, reflecting on his move to the cinch Premiership club. “I’m grateful for that.
“It was a difficult start for myself (at Hibs) but with time and coaching, I have improved and I am slowly getting back to my level. I feel like I am kicking on as a centre-back. I struggled with injuries at Norwich but now I am fully fit and improving.”
Hibs are on a run of eight defeats in their last 10 games as they prepare for Monday’s Edinburgh derby away to Hearts, but Bushiri is adamant his team do not have a losing mentality.
“It’s been hard, but we are not losers,” he said. “Nobody likes to lose games. We want to do better. Football doesn’t give you time to think about things too much, you need to go again. The next game is another opportunity and we are going into a new year so it’s a chance to refresh.
“We are working hard here. Everybody is concerned about the situation of losing games and everybody is working hard to do better and give the fans something back.”
Hibs have not won any of their last seven meetings with Hearts but Bushiri believes Monday’s trip to Tynecastle represents a chance for his team to improve the mood among their supporters.
“It’s one of the most important games of the season for Hibs,” he said. “When you sign for Hibs, you know the responsibilities about the derbies. It is exciting. I love games like this.
“It’s going to be tough, toxic, everything. A derby is purely about your heart and your mentality.
“You can’t compare the feeling of other games to going into a derby. It’s about fighting. We know our fans will be there for us so we need to use that energy throughout the game.
“Derbies are not about where each team is in the table, derbies are different. We will give everything. If we can win away to Hearts it will give us a boost because it is early in the new year and it is a new start.”